New safety classification systems

The convergence of several chemical reclassification and labelling initiatives being implemented in the global business arena to boost health, safety and environmental protection to an unprecedented level is poised to have a monumental impact on the world’s industrial sector. Together with other chemical sectors that use raw materials and introduce new formulae, the petrochemical industry is being required to make rapid and sweeping changes to comply with a whole new level of regulatory requirements. The new legislation impacts on product registration, classification and labelling, packaging and transportation, storage, product information and product disposal.

Launched in 2005, the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) affects more than 60 countries and, since 1st December 2010, directly impacts all chemical substances in EU countries.

REACH and CLP

The EU has already taken the lead in the harmonisation quest with its REACH regulation on chemicals and their safe use, which applies to substances manufactured or imported into the EU in quantities of 1 tpy or more.

The CLP regulation, a more recent EU initiative implemented in January 2009 has the dual objectives of facilitating international trade in chemicals and improving protection of human health and the environment. CLP aligns the EU system of classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures to the GHS.

ISO 10156: 2010

Although less formidable in implication, another critical technical standard coming into play is ISO 10156: 2010, superseding ISO 10156: 1996. This norm impacts on how mixtures of two or more products are classified and where and how they should be labelled, transported, used and stored. Once this revision comes into effect, the impact on affected products could include a new identification label, a new cylinder shoulder colour to indicate the change from either a non-flammable to a flammable mixture, or from a flammable to a non-flammable mixture, updated safety data sheets to include the changes for cylinder safety and transportation, and a different cylinder valve outlet.

Tsunami of new regulations

This veritable tsunami of new regulations will have a monumental impact on industry; it is the biggest shake up the business has experienced in the last 100 years. It can be compared to the introduction of regulations in the pharmaceutical industry in the 1960s following the Thalidomide issue, which was called one of the biggest medical tragedies of modern times. Fortunately, the new regulations are not following in the wake of a large scale tragedy; on the contrary, these are proactive initiatives being driven to prevent major incidents like this.

Tremendous success and admirable progress

Despite the rapid convergence of these regulations, there has been tremendous success and admirable progress. Using different icons and words to describe hazards and risks is okay if the products remain in that particular country, but once a company starts to export, confusion can enter into the equation and compromise safety. At some point in the not too distant future, there will be harmonisation of all chemical labels. So there will only be one label for a particular product. New Zealand and Japan implemented GHS three years ago. Now all eyes are on Europe, before the focus shifts onto other major economic blocks such as the US.

The full article from Linde Gases can be found in the January 2011 issue of Hydrocarbon Engineering.

Published on 07/01/2011

 
 

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