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GHS: Framework for International Hazardous Substances Law

For several years the "Global Harmonized System" (GHS) has been an international framework for existing hazardous substances legislation. The Regulation applies to the annual harmonization of rules for the classification and labelling of dangerous substances, mixtures and goods. The need for harmonization stems from the currently incoherent classification systems, which cause misunderstandings and in some cases severely restrict world trade in chemicals. The GHS Regulation, which came into force in 2009 and has since been updated several times, defines the main terms and labelling as well as classification rules with the aim of establishing uniformly regulated standards for the distributor of chemicals worldwide.

Exceptions and Obstacles to Harmonization by GHS

Meanwhile, all participating countries are using GHS or adjusting their national law to it. However, because a 100 percent implementation of the regulation is not possible and compromises must be made at international level, GHS includes the so-called 'Building Block Approach', which allows countries not to shift certain elements of the UN's Basic Document into national law. Certain restrictions may also be introduced within the building blocks, such as the omission of the classification category Acute Tox. 5 in many countries. Other exceptions to the GHS regulation include so-called "left overs", which allow countires to retain old provisions, unless they are covered by the UN's basic document. Both were used by the EU. Therefore, the hazardous substances law is not internationally verified, sometimes even not comparable.

GHS and the Problem of Frequent Updates

GHS is a UN recommendation that must be implemented by the participating countries. The revision of the regulation, which happens every two years but is not adapted equally quickly, raises some additional problems for the implementation of the intended harmonization. Therefore, several GHS revisions are currently valid in different countries, which means that there are different rules  for the creation of Safety Data Sheets worldwide. The regular changes in the area of ​​the GHS also have many other operational impacts, for example in the context of risk assessments, lists of hazardous substances, operating instructions or storage options.

Transport According to IMDG (Seaship) and IATA-DGR (Air)

In order to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment worldwide, hazardous goods must be transported with particular care. Although the hazardous substances law for handling or storage and the dangerous goods law for transport are separate legal areas, they are becoming increasingly similar. The International Maritime Code for Dangerous Goods (IMDG) contains internationally binding requirements for maritime transport and the handling or stowage of cargo. These are adjusted every two years. Always in odd years, an update comes into force. Transports in passenger and cargo aircraft, on the other hand, are subject to the IATA DGR, which is updated annually. Inland transport by ship, lorry or train is regulated nationally.

GHS - More Information in Our Lexicon

Because questions repeatedly arise in connection with the creation of Safety Data Sheets, hazardous substance / dangerous goods classification, health and safety or quality management, we used to apply our own "QM-Griffbereit" - a free, available dictionary. You can also download this directly as a PDF file. In future its contents will be included in new information offers.