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The Belt and Road Initiative Construction and the Global Implementation of GHS

from CIRS by

March 2015, the Chinese Government released the Vision and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, in which China described the Strategic Roadmap for the Belt and Road Initiative (abbreviated as B&R), which runs through Eurasian continent, connects the East Asia Economic Rim and the European economic circle, and covers 64 countries along the road.

China carries out import and export trade with countries alongside the B&R. Although the demand and industrial structures of those countries are different, which lead to the differentiated proportion of import and export businesses, the trade of chemical products between China and countries alongside the B&R always occupy a certain proportion. In 2016, the trade in chemicals exported to Shanghai from countries alongside the B&R reached 150 million USD; and the trade in chemicals exported to countries alongside the B&R from Shanghai reached 70 million USD. The trade in chemicals between China and countries alongside the B&R accounts for 1/4 percent of all the chemical products import and export.

As some of the chemicals are flammable, explosive, toxic, teratogenetic, carcinogenic, hazardous to the aquatic environment and have other hazardous characteristics, they may pose potential risks to human health and the environment. As a result, to make sure enterprises can appropriately prevent, control and reduce the safety risks of chemicals and to avoid environmental accidents, it is of vital importance for enterprises to know the hazard characteristics of chemicals if enterprises need to trade chemicals. In this article, experts from CIRS will explain in detail the requirements for the communication of the hazardous information of chemicals in countries alongside the Belt and Road Initiative from the perspective of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals released by the UN.

What is GHS

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (abbreviated as GHS) was first put forward in the UNCED, 1992 in Chapter 19 of the Agenda 21: A globally harmonized hazard classification and compatible labeling system, including material safety data sheets and easily understandable symbols, should be available, if feasible, by the year 2000.

The GHS 1st Edition was first approved by the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals first session in December 2002, which was applicable to industrial chemicals, agrochemicals and consumer chemicals. Chemicals subject to other laws, regulations and standards, such as chemical wastes, tobaccos, food, drugs, cosmetics as well as finished products and intermediates with specific shapes are not governed by GHS. The 1st edition of the GHS was officially published in July 2003. Since then, the GHS has been updated, revised and improved every two years. Currently, the latest edition of GHS was the 7th revised edition released in 2017. GHS is also known as the purple book, as color of the surface cover is purple.

GHS regulates the physical hazards, health hazards and environmental hazards as well as the corresponding basis for determination. Enterprises may judge the risks of one chemical based on the GHS and physiochemical, health and environmental experimental data as well as documental materials. The hazards of the chemicals will be communicated to the workers, consumers and the public through safety label (abbreviated as label) and safety data sheets (abbreviated as SDS) in the process of production, storage, transportation, operation and use, so as to ensure that these people can know the hazards of the chemicals, the precautionary measures and how to safely dispose the chemicals in case of emergency.

GHS provides the flexibility to allow countries and regions to adopt the hazards classes and categories that are in line with the practical situations of the countries and the regions.

At the end of 2002, China became a formal member of Sub-committee of Experts on Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling under the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. Since then, China has built GHS inter-ministerial conference system and the GHS experts consulting committee successively. Besides, China also issued the national standards on classification and labeling of chemicals based on GHS.

From 2006, China issued various national standards based on UN GHS successfully, which in detail gave the classification methods of chemicals as well as the SDS and labels authoring requirements. In 2011, the State Council issued the Regulations on the Safe Management of Hazardous Chemicals (State Council Decree No. 591), in which the requirements for the classification and information communication of hazardous chemicals were clearly given. In February 2012, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine released the No. 30 Announcement, requiring that CHINA ENTRY-EXIT INSPECTION AND QUARANTINE BUREAU (abbreviated as CIQ) should inspect the import & export hazardous chemicals and their packages, including the labels and SDS.

Countries alongside the B&R Adopting GHS

As of 2018, GHS has been widely accepted in main countries and regions around the world. Among the 64 countries involved in the B&R, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Turkey, Russia and some countries and regions in EU have adopted and implemented the chemical classification and hazard information communication system based on UN GHS.

The GHS Implementation Status in Various Countries and Regions

In Europe Union, before the implementation of GHS, Directive 67/548/EEC and Directive 1999/45/EC were adopted to regulate the classification and labeling of substances and preparations (mixtures) respectively. On 16 Dec. 2008, the European Parliament and the EU Council released the Classification, Labeling and Packaging (CLP) Regulation ((EC) No 1272/2008, hereinafter referred to as CLP). It is based on the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System and its purpose is to ensure a high level of protection of health and the environment, as well as the free movement of substances, mixtures and articles. The CLP replaced the original regulations in June 2015 and officially came into force on 20 Jan. 2009. From 1 Jan. 2017, all chemical products on the EU market must comply with the requirements of CLP.

In 2008, the Singapore competent authority adopted GHS through the issuance of the Work Safety and Health Act. The transitional period for substances and mixtures ended on 1 Feb. 2012 and 1 Feb. 2015 respectively. The detailed classification requirements, SDS and labeling authoring rules are subject to the SS 586.

The Russian competent authority released several technical documents and standards (GOST3033 3-2007, GOST 31340-2013, GOST 32419-2013, etc.) based on GHS from 2007 to 2014. And the GHS was also implemented as a recommended standard from 1 Aug. 2014. It is estimated that the GHS will become compulsory in Russia from 1 Jul. 2021 due to the implementation of the new technical regulation for chemical products safety.

Turkey’s requirements on substances and mixtures, which were fully implemented through the “Official Announcement No. 28848” issued by the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, are quite similar to that of the EU CLP. The legislation ruled that the transitional period for substances and mixtures ended on 1 Jun. 2015 and 1 Jun. 2016 respectively.

The Malaysia competent authority issued the Classification, Labeling and Safety Data Sheet of Hazardous Chemicals Regulations (abbreviated as CLASS) and the guidance document ICOP 2014 in 2013 and 2014 respectively. These two legislations were compiled based on the UN GHS and applied to the classification, SDS and labeling of hazardous chemicals in Malaysia. In accordance with the requirements of the CLASS, all chemical products (including substances and mixtures) must have compliant SDS and labeling from 17 Apr. 2015.

From 2012, the Thailand competent authority passed the Hazardous Substance Act and Hazard Classification and Communication System of Hazardous Substances (B.E.2555), in which the GHS was adopted. The transitional periods for substances and mixtures ended on 13 Mar. 2013 and 13 Mar. 2017 respectively.

From 2009, the Indonesia competent authority issued the Decree of Minister of Industry No. 87/M-IND/PER/9/2009 and Decree of Minister of Industry No. 23/M-IND/PER/4/2013 in succession, in which GHS was adopted. According to the requirements of the two legislations, enterprises need to prepare SDS and labeling for substances from 24 Mar. 2010 and prepare SDS and labeling for mixtures from 31 Dec. 2016.

The Philippines competent authority passed the Guidelines for the Implementation of Global Harmonized System (GHS) for the Workplace Chemical Safety Program on 14 Mar. 2015. From 2015 to 2019, the Philippines will gradually implement the GHS for workplace, priority chemicals and toxic chemicals in accordance with the “Globally Harmonized System Implementation Rules and Procedures” DENR Administrative Order 2015-09 which was issued on May 19, 2015.

Vietnam adopted the GHS through the Chemical Law. This legislation required that SDS and labels for substances and mixtures must be prepared in accordance with Decree 108/2008/ND-CP and Circular No. 04/2012/TT-BCT which were based on UN GHS purple book from 30 Mar. 2014 and 30 Mar. 2016 respectively.

See the GHS implementation time of the above countries/regions below:


The Compliance Highlights of GHS

GHS allows the hazard information of substances/ mixtures to be communicated among different countries/ regions, so as to reduce duplicate tests, lower the trade cost and facilitate trade. With the implementation of GHS globally, the globally harmonized system for classification and labeling contributes to the circulation of chemicals around the world.

Different countries/ regions have different requirements on the classification of chemicals and the details of information communication. For this reason, enterprises need to author SDS and labels based on the requirements of the target countries/ regions. Generally, enterprises must pay attention to the hazard category, official language, requirements on compilers, term of validity of the documents, emergency contact number, etc.

The purple book allows countries and regions to adopt their own classification and information communication rules based on the UN GHS. Besides, countries/regions may also adopt the hazard classes based on their own needs. For instance, in the purple book, the acute toxicity is classified into 5 categories (category 1-5), yet EU, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia only adopts the acute toxicity category 1-4. At the same time, some competent authority will release official chemical substances classification lists as references, such as the Annex 6 of CLP and the first part of Malaysia ICOP. The lists issued by different countries/regions are also different. That is to say, one substance may have different hazard class in different countries/regions. Contents of its SDS and labels may also be different.

Different countries/regions have different official language, and the SDS and labels shall be prepared in the official language of the target countries/regions. If enterprises need to export their products to different countries, they need to prepare various SDS and labels in different languages. In case the country has two official languages, such as Malaysia, then the SDS and labels shall be made in the two languages.

In most of the countries and regions, the GHS legislation does not have any specific requirements on the qualifications of personnel authoring SDS and labels. Anyone who is familiar with the GHS legislations and the classification requirements of chemicals may prepare SDS and labels. However, in Turkey, personnel authoring SDS and labels must pass relative examinations and obtain a certificate. Besides, the contact method and the certificate No. of the authoring personnel shall also be indicated in the SDS.

UN GHS purple book suggests that enterprises shall check whether the hazard information of the products is changed every 3-5 years. If the hazard information do change, enterprises need to modify the information in time. Some countries even have requirements on the inspection time, for instance, in Indonesia and Singapore, the legislation explicitly requires that SDS shall be reviewed and amended every 5 years.

Different countries and regions may have different requirements on the emergency contact number in SDS and labels. For instance, enterprises in EU can use a number that can be connected in working hours as the emergency contact number. However, in China and Malaysia, enterprises must use an emergency consulting number that can be connected 24-7.

Besides, when designing and pasting labels, enterprises shall pay attention to the requirements on the label sizes, pictogram sizes, fonts and font sizes in different countries/ regions and provide security labels which have content and form of compliance. The labels shall also be attached to a proper place of the package.

Professional Regulatory Compliance Services Provided by CIRS

Hazardous chemicals manufacturing and operating enterprises have the obligations to understand and identify the hazard information of the chemicals. Then they shall communicate the related hazard information and the precautionary measures to the downstream users in time. Enterprises shall comply with the regulations of different countries/regions in international trade, so as to make sure the smooth trade flow and to protect the environment and the human health.

Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service (CIRS) is a leading product safety and chemical management consulting firm, providing valued product regulatory compliance service, tailored solutions and original information to help clients gain competitive advantage by reducing business risks associations with regulatory affairs and removing barriers to entry. CIRS Group is currently able to assist companies in the preparation of SDS and security labels that are adapted to the laws and regulations of various countries/regions around the world. Based on creativity, integrity, responsibility and sustainability service concept, CIRS Group will continue to provide professional technical consultation and overall solutions for chemical related companies and provide comprehensive compliance protection.

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