The GHS: What You Need to Know
Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is currently a popular topic of discussion in the industry. GHS will become mandatory from the 1st of January 2017. There has been some confusion about the transition process so let’s help set the record straight.
What is GHS?
The GHS is an acronym for the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals and is a new naming and labelling system that is in the process of being implemented globally. It was developed by the United Nations and the transition to the new GHS system began in Australia in January of 2012 and will be fully implemented by January 1, 2017. January is now fast approaching and you would have noticed many manufacturers and importers are well underway into their transition to the GHS.
Who will the GHS affect?
The GHS will be mandatory on the 1st of January, 2017. Victoria, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory have not yet mandated use of the GHS meaning that the use of GHS is not compulsory in any of these states or territories. However, you will find that most of your suppliers will comply with the GHS as many of them ship nationwide. Westlab Group, for example, who are located in Victoria will be fully compliant by January 1st, 2017. If you regularly use suppliers from these states and/or territories, it is worth confirming that they will be fully compliant come January 1st. Determining that they will be able to fulfil your chemical orders now will save on headaches when ordering. If you are located in VIC, WA, or ACT, you will have the option to use either the current prescribed system or the GHS for classification of chemicals. There has been talk, although not officially confirmed, that Victoria is intending to mandate the GHS from the 1st of July, 2017.
Do I need to do anything?
Manufacturers, importers, and suppliers will be most affected by the GHS transition. It will be the manufacturers and importers duty to ensure that their chemicals are supplied in accordance with the GHS which includes ensuring that chemicals are correctly labelled and classified as well as making sure that SDS’s are prepared in accordance with the GHS.
As an end-user, you will be less affected by the transition. Come January 2017, you don’t actually need to relabel all of your existing stock to the GHS (although you can if you want to). After this date, however, it is your supplier’s responsibility to only supply product to you that is in accordance with the GHS (provided you are in one of the mandatory states/territories in Australia). From your perspective as an end-user, you must only accept GHS compliant products after this date and make sure your SDS’s are compliant with the GHS.
The GHS system was developed to standardise the way in which we use, handle, and store hazardous chemicals in the workplace. It is a global initiative and will ensure that dangers are communicated more easily and effectively. We are moving more and more towards a global trading society and initiatives like the GHS allows for a more consistent and safer workplace for everyone.
Action Point for End Users:
- If you are located in a GHS compliant state/territory and your supplier is located in VIC, WA, or ACT, ensure they will be compliant with the GHS by January 1st, 2017.If the answer is yes, then you don’t need to do anything further.
- If the answer is no, then you have no choice but to change to a GHS compliant supplier.
- If you are located in VIC, WA, or ACT, you don’t need to do anything differently come January 1st, 2017.
- GHS compliant states and territories should ensure all your SDS’s are compliant with the GHS before January 1st. Your supplier will be able to assist you with this process if required.
For more information on the GHS transition, visit http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/.