Globally Harmonised System

Latest Update - February 2020

In October 2019, the EPA opened up consultation on changes to chemical classification and labelling.

Here is their summary text:
We are proposing to internationally align New Zealand’s hazardous substance classification system by adopting the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS).

The GHS is an internationally agreed system developed by the United Nations to classify chemicals and communicate their hazards through labels and safety data sheets.

New Zealand’s current classification system was implemented in 2001. It was based on a pre-published version of the GHS that was first introduced in 2003. Whilst our system was considered world-leading at the time, the EPA has identified a number of benefits in updating to a later version of the GHS. They include reducing complexity for stakeholders, international alignment that facilitates trade, and enhanced effectiveness of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO).

We propose to adopt revision 7 of the GHS, which was published in 2017.

Adopting the GHS will not change the hazardous substance risk assessment process that is set out by the HSNO Act.

The NZPMA made a submission to this, agreeing with most statements, disagreeing with one, and adding lots of notes on, at times, the significant impact this would have on our industry.

We will keep members informed of this as news becomes available.

The Global Harmonised System is yet another reason where being a member of the World Coatings Council is a major benefit to the NZPMA. We are too small an Association to be represented at the UN, however the WCC sends at least one person to these meetings, ensuring that the industry is being represented. All WCC members then receive summaries of all the meetings so we know what changes may be heading 'Downunder'.

If there are any issues that start coming up, then we can also talk to the NZ government representatives who also attend these meetings to get their support.

Below is a statement regarding Transport of Dangerous Goods from the WCC.

UN Subcommittee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System
of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)

In the 1990s, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe embarked on a journey to design a universal chemical classification system for the entire world. It was believed that a universal chemical classification system would help to decrease the number of accidents in the workplace and home environments resulting from improper use of chemical products. It was also believed that a universal chemical classification system would decrease the cost of doing business around the world because in theory one label could be used for the same product sold in many different countries.

The development and maintenance of the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) was formally commissioned by the United Nations and assigned to the Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS (UNSCEGHS).

As noted above, the reasons for setting the objective of harmonization were many. The UNSCEGHS operates with the goal that, when fully implemented, the GHS will:

  • Enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensible system for hazard communication;
  • Provide a recognized framework for those countries without an existing system;
  • Reduce the need for testing and evaluation of chemicals; and
  • Facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified on an international basis.

The World Coatings Council continues to send least one representative to the UNSCEGHS Meetings held twice annually in Geneva, Switzerland. At these meetings, the council’s representatives get a chance to meet the environmental, health, and safety representatives from member countries who work on each revision of the GHS. The council can submit white papers to support its member associations’ viewpoints on certain technical issues before the UNSCEGHS. Input from council representatives has been well-received by the UNSCEGHS.

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