GHS - Classification & Labelling of Chemicals

The Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an international system created by the United Nations. It has been designed to replace the existing numerous classification and labelling standards used in different countries with globally consistent criteria for classification and labelling.

This system addresses the classification of chemicals by hazard type and proposes harmonised hazard communication elements, including labels and safety data sheets. It aims to ensure that information on physical hazards and toxicity of chemicals is available to improve the protection of human health and environmental protection during their handling, transport and use. The GHS also provides a basis for harmonisation for rules and regulations on chemicals at national, regional and worldwide level that facilitates trade.

Countries and jurisdictions that wish to harmonise their national standards internationally can voluntarily adopt GHS. Many have already done so, amongst others Australia, Canada, the European Union and Japan, or are working on implementing the system or specific parts of it into their legislation. GHS classification criteria are also the basis for international classification systems for the transport of dangerous goods.

The Nickel Institute promotes the appropriate classifications for nickel and nickel compounds based on sound science that recognises nickel’s specificities.

It also supports member companies with compliance. The Nickel Institute provides an online database to its Member companies, which gives an overview of the status of the GHS implementation in key regions for the nickel industry. It also reflects the current classification of nickel and nickel compounds as well as proposals for future classification of these substances.

Correct classification is of the utmost importance for any chemicals management system. However, regulatory risk management decisions should not be based solely on the classification, as this does not take account of whether there are any uses of the substance that present a risk, i.e. whether there is actually a need for action. Therefore, the Nickel Institute recommends that regulatory consequences of classification in other legislation should not be automatic or should at least allow for exemptions to ensure that the appropriate classification does not have unintended consequences.

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