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 use for the same product sold in two different countries. Thus the establishment of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification And Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) by the United Nations Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS (UNSCEGHS).
As noted above, the reasons for setting the objective of harmonization were many. The United Nations Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS anticipates that, when fully implemented, the GHS will:
(a) enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensible system for hazard communication;
(b) provide a recognized framework for those countries without an existing system;
(c) reduce the need for testing and evaluation of chemicals; and
(d) facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified on an international basis.
IPPIC continues to send least one representative to the UNSCEGHS Meetings held twice annually in Geneva, Switzerland. At these meetings, IPPIC representatives get a chance to meet the environmental, health, and safety representatives from member countries who work on each revision of the GHS. IPPIC often submits white papers to support its member associations’ viewpoints on certain technical issues before the UNSCEGHS. Input from IPPIC representatives has been well-received by the UNSCEGHS.