Programme Areas
Events
Capacity Building
Library
Annual Reports
GHS Expert Roster
Comprehensibility Testing
Financial Support and Resource Mobilization
FAQs
Links
 
 

 

FAQs

UNITAR has developed the following "Frequently Asked Questions" on Capacity Building for the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The questions are divided into four sections as listed below. These FAQs will be updated on a regular basis to reflect the latest information on the GHS. Please click on the below links to access the questions and answers within each section

Further information on the technical aspects of the GHS and details on the
Sub-committee of Experts on the GHS (SCEGHS) can be found at:
http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/ghs_welcome_e.html

Section 1: National GHS Implementation

Section 2: UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme

Section 3: The WSSD Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS

Section 4: GHS and Other International Agreements

Section 1: National GHS Implementation

 

1.1 What are the benefits of implementing the GHS at the national level?

1.2 How can the GHS facilitate trade?

1.3 Who is responsible for the implementation of the GHS?

1.4 What are the sectors concerned by national GHS implementation?

1.5 How can efficient national coordination for GHS implementation be ensured?

1.6 How is a national GHS implementation strategy (NIS) developed?

1.7 How can a National Profile help the process of GHS implementation? Where can examples of National Profiles be found?

1.8 What are a situation and gap analysis?

1.9 What is comprehensibility testing and how does it facilitate GHS capacity building?

1.10 What is a sectoral implementation plan and how is one prepared?

1.11 Why is it helpful to organize a national GHS workshop?

1.12 What is the role of business and industry in GHS implementation?

1.13 What is the role of public interest and labour organisations in GHS implementation?

1.14 What is control banding and how does it relate to GHS?

1.15 What is the status of GHS implementation worldwide?

 

Section 2: UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme

 

2.1 What is the role of UNITAR and ILO in GHS implementation?

2.2 What is the history of the UNITAR/ILO GHS Capacity Building programme and WSSD Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS?

2.3 What are current UNITAR/ILO Capacity Building Programme activities?

2.4 What resources are available from UNITAR/ILO to support GHS capacity building?

2.5 What is the role of Programme Advisory Group (PAG)?

2.6 How is the UNITAR/ILO GHS Capacity Building Programme funded?

2.7 How can I contact UNITAR for further information about GHS capacity building?

 

Section 3: The WSSD Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS

 

3.1 What is the WSSD Partnership?

3.2 What are the main objectives of the WSSD GHS Partnership?

3.3 Who are the partners?

3.4 What are the main partnership activities?

3.5 What is the purpose of the Meeting of the Partners for the WSSD Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS?

3.6 How does one join the WSSD Partnership?

 

Section 4: GHS and Other International Agreements

 

4.1 How does the GHS relate to the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods?

4.2 What is the relation of the GHS to the WHO Recommended Classification of Pesticides by Hazard and Guidelines to Classification, and to the FAO Guidelines on Pesticide Registration and Guidelines on Good Labelling Practice for Pesticides?

4.3 How does the GHS relate to the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)?

4.4 How does the GHS relate to other international chemical agreements?
 
 
SECTION 1: NATIONAL GHS IMPLEMENTATION
 

1.1 WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING THE GHS AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL?

The implementation of the GHS can have numerous benefits for governments, business and industry, and public interest and labour groups. Implementing the GHS also provides a number of international benefits.

It is anticipated that application of the GHS will:

  • Enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensible system,
  • Provide a recognized framework to develop regulations for those countries without existing systems,
  • Facilitate international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been identified on an international basis,
  • Reduce the need for testing and evaluation against multiple classification systems.
  • The GHS can also support the implementations of the Millennium Development Goals to “ensure environmental sustainability”.

The tangible benefits to governments are:

  • Fewer chemical accidents and incidents,
  • Lower health care costs,
  • Improved protection of workers and the public from chemical hazards,
  • Avoiding duplication of effort in creating national systems,
  • Reduction in the costs of enforcement,
  • Improved reputation on chemical issues, both domestically and internationally.

Benefits to business and industry include:

  • A safer work environment and improved relations with employees,
  • An increase in efficiency and reduced costs from compliance with hazard communication regulations,
  • Application of expert systems resulting in maximizing expert resources and minimizing labor and costs,
  • Facilitation of electronic transmission systems with international scope,
  • Expanded use of training programs on health and safety,
  • Reduced costs due to fewer accidents and illnesses,
  • Improved corporate image and credibility.

Benefits to workers and the public include:

  • Improved safety for workers and others through consistent and simplified communications on chemical hazards and practices to follow for safe handling and use,
  • Greater awareness of hazards, resulting in safer use of chemicals in the workplace and in the home.

Further information on the global benefits of the GHS can be found on the UNECE GHS FAQ page at: XXXXXX

1.2 HOW CAN THE GHS FACILITATE TRADE?

In the area of trade, the need to comply with multiple regulations regarding hazard classification and labeling is costly and time-consuming. Some multinational companies have estimated that there are over 100 diverse hazard communication regulations for their products globally. For small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) regulatory compliance is complex and costly, and it can act as a barrier to international trade in chemicals. Due to differences in national and international legal instruments for hazard classification and communication, often the same product may require multiple labels and safety data sheets, domestically and in international trade, for the same product. The GHS can facilitate international trade in chemicals since hazards are identified and communicated on the basis of an internationally consistent criterion. With the GHS, there is reduced need for testing and evaluation against multiple classification systems and through provision of a harmonised system for hazard communication.

1.3 WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE GHS?

At the national level, the implementation of GHS calls for initiatives, activities and capacities of government, industry and public interest and labour groups. A partnership approach can facilitate the coherent implementation of the GHS in all sectors concerned.

In government, competent authorities should implement the GHS through national regulations, legislation and administrative procedures. A number of types of government bodies including transport, industry, health, environment, customs or research, may be involved in the process of GHS implementation, and business and industry, as well as public interest and labour organisations should also be consulted.
 
The monitoring and enforcement of national systems is the responsibility of relevant government authorities, including worker, health, safety and consumer inspectorates and custom agencies.

Business and industry have the responsibility for applying the classification and labelling requirements for chemicals. The public interest and labour groups can also play an important role in GHS capacity building and implementation through awareness raising, lobbying, monitoring and training activities.

Further information on the international bodies supporting GHS implementation can be found on the UNSCEGHS website.

1.4 WHAT ARE THE SECTORS CONCERNED BY NATIONAL GHS IMPLEMENTATION?

Four key sectors involved in chemical hazard communication at the national level are concerned by the GHS:

  • Industrial workplaces
  • Agriculture
  • Transport
  • Consumer products

Industrial Workplaces

Chemicals produced in factories and used in workplaces are a central component to many countries’ economies. However, they may pose dangers to those at risk of exposure, whether directly in the factories or in surrounding communities, and may be a hazard to the environment if released. Workers in factories, storage facilities, construction sites, drilling sites and at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can be at risk of exposure to chemical hazards, for example, through a leak from barrels in storage or through airborne contamination in a factory using a particular chemical to produce another product.

The objective of hazard communication in this sector is therefore to ensure that appropriate actions are taken to provide information about these hazards and train target groups in appropriate precautionary behaviour. Employers and workers need to know the hazards specific to the chemicals used and or handled in the workplace, as well as information about the specific protective measures required to avoid the adverse effects that might be caused by those hazards. The tool most commonly used for providing this information is the label. However, the label is not the sole source of this information. It is also available through the SDS and workplace hazard and risk management systems. Workplace hazard and risk management systems should also provide training in hazard identification, precautionary measures and the use of SDS. The nature of training provided and the accuracy, comprehensibility and completeness of the information in the SDS may vary. However, compared to consumers for example, workers can develop a more in-depth understanding of hazard symbols and other types of information when properly trained.

Agriculture

Pesticides are in wide-spread use around the world and may pose hazards to those producing or using them, as well as to the environment in which they are used. Farmers and farm workers are at risk from exposure through the use of different agricultural chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers. The WHO places the total cases of pesticide poisoning in the agricultural sector at between 2 and 5 million each year, of which 40,000 are fatal. Barrels containing pesticides, for example, may not be properly labelled (or repackaged without labelling) or the hazard information on the label may not be comprehensible due to linguistic reasons. Distributors or farmers spraying crops with a pesticide may not have access to, or understanding of, an SDS on that particular chemical.

The objective of hazard communication in the agriculture sector is therefore to provide appropriate information related to chemicals (pesticides, insecticides, etc.) used in this sector and to relevant target audiences (e.g. farmers). The key tool used to communicate hazard information in the agriculture sector is the label. As distributors may repackage pesticides, ensuring that labels are consistent at all stages is also important. As with all sectors, training on the proper understanding and use of the label information and the chemicals is important.

Quoted in V. Forastieri, “Challenges in providing occupational safety and health services to workers in agriculture”, African Newsletter on Occupational Health and Safety, vol. 11, no. 2 (August 2001): p. 34.

Transport

Chemicals and products containing chemicals are transported around the world via road, rail, water and air and may pose a hazard not only to those directly involved in their transport, but also to communities on the transit route and the environment in the case of an accident.  The objective of hazard communication is therefore to ensure that those involved in the transport sector have information concerning general safe practices that are appropriate for transport situations. For example, a driver will have to know what has to be done in case of an accident irrespective of the substance transported (e.g. report the accident to authorities, keep the shipping documents in a given place). Drivers require information concerning specific hazards in the event of an accident and additional information if they also load and unload packages or fill tanks. Workers who might come into direct contact with dangerous goods in transit, for example on board ships, require detailed information. In all cases, labels, placards, transport documents and SDS are key tools.

The transport sector has long been a focus of international efforts on hazard communication, primarily through the UN Sub-committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UN SCETDG). This body elaborated the first internationally recognised classification and labelling system for the purpose of transporting dangerous goods, the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UN RTDG). The UN RTDG cater to a wide range of target audiences, although workers involved in transporting chemicals and emergency responders are the principal ones. Classification and labelling for the transport of dangerous goods is now based on the GHS and it is expected that application of the GHS will be similar to application of current transport requirements. Containers of dangerous goods will be marked with pictograms that address acute toxicity, physical hazards, and environmental hazards. The elements of the GHS that address these, such as signal words and hazard statements, are not expected to be adopted in the transport sector.

Consumer Products

Consumers are exposed to a wide variety of hazardous chemicals in their daily lives, such as certain bleaches, paints, dyes, garden pesticides and cleaning products. Children may also be exposed to chemical hazards via products used in the home. Ensuring the provision of comprehensible information on consumer products so that they are used appropriately is the objective of hazard communication in this sector. In the consumer sector the label in most cases is likely to be the sole source of information readily available to consumers. The label, therefore, needs to be sufficiently clear and relevant to the use of the product. Moreover, consumer education is more difficult and less efficient than education for other audiences. Providing sufficient information to consumers in the simplest and most easily understandable terms presents a considerable challenge. The problems of making readily comprehensible information available to consumers are also made more difficult by the wide range of chemicals and uses in the home. Some products contain many dozens of chemicals all with different properties.

The objective in this sector is to ensure the comprehensive information on consumer chemicals. The issue of comprehensibility is therefore of particular importance for this sector, since consumers may rely mainly on label information and would benefit from education and awareness. Because consumers are not trained to use raw hazard information to make decisions about the risks posed by the substance(s) present in a product. Therefore, risk based labelling including precautionary information should be considered.

back to top

1.5 HOW CAN EFFICIENT NATIONAL COORDINATION FOR GHS IMPLEMENTATION BE ENSURED?

In order to ensure efficient national coordination for GHS implementation, it is helpful to establish a coordinating infrastructure to frame the development of a GHS implementation strategy. The infrastructure ensures the communication between the sectors concerned and between the stakeholder groups. In order to ensure the coordination of the many tasks and activities involved in strategy development, it may be useful to form a national GHS coordination and implementation committee which can include the representatives of stakeholder groups and government ministries representing industrial workplace, agriculture, transport, and consumer product. The committee can elaborate a work plan outlining project activities and dates as well as the budget for the development of implementation strategy. Additional subcommittees for the sectors or for cross sectoral issues such as awareness raising, legislation and/or emergency response may be formed as appropriate.

1.6 HOW IS A NATIONAL GHS IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY (NIS) DEVELOPED?

While each country may chose to implement the GHS in a manner suitable for its particular circumstances, the process of developing a national GHS implementation strategy comprises a number of considerations and activities. These can be generally described in the following steps:

First, government, business and industry, and public interest and labour organisations from the four sectors <link to question 3.4> of industrial workplaces, agriculture, transport and consumer products may find it helpful to create a national GHS coordination or implementation committee <link to question 3.5>. Countries may find it useful to identify a lead institution as well as establish subcommittees based on the four sectors or additional cross sectoral issues such as legislation, awareness raising, emergency response, etc.

Next, countries can collect information about their existing GHS infrastructure and activities and prepare a situation analysis <link to question 3.8>. This situation analysis is used to compare the existing capacities with what should be in place, the gap analysis <link to 3.8>, which will serve as the basis for identifying required action for GHS implementation.

Using the information from the situation and gap analysis, the country can then develop sectoral implementation plans to address the specific needs of each sector. Additionally special emphasis should be given to the development of GHS implementing legislation, through the development of new legislation or amending existing legislation. Countries may also wish to designate specific resources to support activities in business and industry, as well as for public interest and labour organisations to further include all stakeholders in the process of GHS implementation.

Finally, the results of the situation and gap analysis, the sectoral implementation plans, as well as any additional results from stakeholder activities can be brought together into a National GHS Implementation Strategy. These steps are further elaborated in the UNITAR/ILO guidance on “Development of a National GHS Implementation StrategyFrench, Russian, and Spanish.

1.7 HOW CAN A NATIONAL PROFILE HELP THE PROCESS OF GHS IMPLEMENTATION? WHERE CAN EXAMPLES OF NATIONAL PROFILES BE FOUND?

National Profiles are a mechanism by which countries can provide a comprehensive overview and assessment of a country’s existing national legal, institutional, administrative and technical infrastructure related to the management of chemicals, including information on existing systems for chemical classification and hazard communication. This information can be used as a starting point for gathering information on the current situation within a country in order to understand the changes necessary for implementing the GHS. Countries interested in participating in a UNITAR project to develop their own national profile or wishing to view examples from other countries, can find more information at: www.unitar.org/cwm/nphomepage/nph2.html

1.8 WHAT ARE A SITUATION AND GAP ANALYSIS?

A GHS situation analysis is an important step in the preparation of a National GHS Implementation Strategy <link to 3.6>. Its purpose is to collect baseline information to document the existing national infrastructure and capacities for chemical classification and hazard communication related to GHS implementation.

The purpose of the gap analysis is to compare the existing situation, collected in the situation analysis, with what should be in place to facilitate GHS implementation. This information can be collected and analysed by government, industry and public interest and labour groups for each of four sectors: industrial workplace, agriculture, transport and consumer product chemicals.

The output from the situation and gap analysis can be a short report, though there are number of ways a country may choose to present its results. However, countries should use the information gathered in the initial situation and gap analysis to provide a starting point for developing GHS implementation plans.

1.9 WHAT IS COMPREHENSIBILITY TESTING AND HOW DOES IT FACILITATE GHS CAPACITY BUILDING?

Comprehensibility testing is a survey based tool for assessment GHS awareness and understanding amongst the public. It has an important and valuable role at various stages in the process of developing and implementing a National GHS Implementation Strategy. It has multiple objectives and should be utilized to meet to achieve identified national needs. These include inter alia:

• Informing the development of the situation and gap analysis and therefore sectoral implementation plans and identification of the measures needed to ensure the information provided is effective in promoting safe chemical use.
• Understanding what awareness raising instruments are necessary,
• Use as an awareness raising and training tool.

Further information on comprehensibility testing can be found on the UNITAR comprehensibility testing website.

1.10 WHAT IS A SECTORAL IMPLEMENTATION PLAN AND HOW IS ONE PREPARED?

The sectors affected by GHS implementation (industrial workplaces, agriculture, transport and consumer products) can have differing chemical classification and hazard communication systems in place, or implement the GHS at different speeds. Therefore, the development of sectoral implementation plans is an important step in the creation of a coherent national GHS implementation strategy. Building on the information in the situation and gap analysis, each sectoral implementation plan should provide information regarding concrete actions that will need to be taken to implement the GHS by government, business and industry, and public interest and labour organizations.

1.11 WHY IS IT HELPFUL TO ORGANIZE A NATIONAL GHS WORKSHOP?

During the initial phase of developing a national implementation strategy countries may consider organizing a national GHS workshop with participation of relevant government ministries, business and industry representatives, and public interest and labour groups. Such workshops can be used as an opportunity to learn more about the technical aspects and a necessary infrastructure for the effective implementation of the GHS, to review the situation and gap analysis and results from comprehensibility testing. The workshops can initiate the development of required legislative reform, sectoral implementation plans and other activities for the GHS implementation and develop a timeline for the GHS implementation.

1.12 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY IN GHS IMPLEMENTATION?

Business and trade groups, including the chemical industry, have the primary responsibility for applying the classification and labelling requirements for chemicals throughout the supply chain or life cycle. Companies that produce chemicals and/or place them on the market therefore need to ensure that they have the necessary expertise available to identify and collect information on the chemicals they are responsible for, to apply the classification criteria and to develop labels and safety data sheets. Manufacturers and suppliers are responsible for providing this information. Distributors may repackage products and therefore need to ensure the appropriate continuity of labelling and SDSs, including necessary translation.

Employers and companies (both producer and user) also have a responsibility to train their staff in the correct interpretation and use of applicable hazard communication tools, such as labels and SDS. Companies will also need to have in place systems to collect information from the supply chain (e.g. on the effects of particular chemicals on workers) that may lead to revised hazard communication efforts and recommendations for risk management interventions.

Companies also often have a wider responsibility to ensure the safe use of the chemicals they produce or place on the market. This may be a result of “corporate social responsibility”, product stewardship, liability for damage to human health and the environment, or the application of industry standards such as Responsible Care®. Such a responsibility may mean that additional information on the effects of, and exposure to, chemicals may need to be generated.

1.13 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PUBLIC INTEREST AND LABOUR ORGANISATIONS IN GHS IMPLEMENTATION?

Public interest and labour groups represent interests of individuals joined together for a common purpose such as health or environment protection. These groups represent individuals who are exposed to chemicals and may be affected by ineffective chemical hazard communication.

Public interest and labour groups should play an active and important role in GHS capacity building and implementation. The role of the public interest and labour groups is threefold. First, public interest and labour groups have a key role in gathering information on the current status of hazard communication among constituents and other members of public interest and labour groups. Second, public interest and labour groups can influence the development of the GHS implementation strategy by informing government and industry decision makers on the priorities of the people they represent. This can be through working with government to shape appropriate legislation for implementing the GHS or demanding more compliance from industry. Finally, through training and awareness raising activities, public interest and labour groups can contribute to on-the-ground implementation of the GHS.

1.14 WHAT IS CONTROL BANDING AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO GHS?

Control banding is where a single control technology is applied to a range or band of exposures to a chemical that falls within a given hazard group. The control banding process emphasizes the controls needed to prevent hazardous substances from causing harm to people at work. The control banding approach focuses resources on exposure controls and describes how strictly a risk needs to be managed. This qualitative risk assessment and management tool is intended to help small businesses by providing an easy-to-understand, practical approach to controlling hazardous exposures at work.

The control banding process emphasizes the controls needed to prevent hazardous substances from causing harm to people at work. The greater the potential for harm, the greater the degree of control needed to manage the situation and make the risk “acceptable.” This approach focuses resources on exposure controls and describes how strictly a risk needs to be managed. This qualitative risk assessment and management tool is intended to help small businesses by providing an easy-to-understand, practical approach to controlling hazardous exposures at work. The GHS establishes an international system of classification and labeling that can be used in control banding. It provides an additional implementation of the GHS as a practical use of the information to control exposures.

Further information on control banding can be accessed on the ILO control banding website.

1.15 WHAT IS THE STATUS OF GHS IMPLEMENTATION WORLDWIDE?

Around the world, countries are actively working toward GHS implementation. Information on global activities toward GHS implementation can be found on the UNECE website at: www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/implementation_e.html

SECTION 2: UNITAR/ILO GLOBAL GHS CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAMME
 

2.1 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF UNITAR AND ILO IN GHS IMPLEMENTATION?

UNITAR and ILO are the designated focal points for capacity building in the UN ECOSOC Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS (SCEGHS). The UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme provides guidance documents, educational, awareness-raising, resource and training materials regarding the new System. Relevant topics include development of national GHS implementation strategies, legislation, situation/gap analyses, chemical hazards, labelling, safety data sheets (SDS), as well as related support measures such as comprehensibility testing. Some materials are available in several UN languages.

2.2 WHAT IS THE HISTORY OF THE UNITAR/ILO GHS CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAMME AND WSSD PARTNERSHIP FOR CAPACITY BUILDING TO IMPLEMENT THE GHS?

In its Plan of Implementation adopted in Johannesburg on 4 September 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development encouraged countries to implement the new GHS as soon as possible with a view to having the system fully operational by 2008. UNITAR and ILO were nominated to assist countries in building their capacity to implement the GHS. Further information on the UNITAR/ILO GHS Capacity Building Programme can be found at
< http://www.unitar.org/cwm/ghs/index.html >.

Adequate support for training and technical assistance are necessary for widespread introduction of the GHS and effective hazard communication into national legal and technical infrastructures. To this aim, the UNITAR/ILO/IOMC WSSD GHS Capacity Building Programme was formed for developing partnership activities and providing support to assist countries in developing and implementing the GHS. Further information on the Partnership can be found in Part 5 of the FAQ <link to part 5> and at
< http://www.unitar.org/cwm/ghs_partnership/index.htm >.

2.3 WHAT ARE CURRENT UNITAR/ILO CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAMME ACTIVITIES?

The UNITAR/ILO Capacity Building Programme Activities are divided into four programme areas: country-based activities, regional activities, development of guidance and training materials and supporting services.

 In 2005-2007, UNITAR is supporting national GHS implementation and capacity building projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nigeria, Senegal, Slovenia, Thailand, The Gambia, and The Philippines. Meetings and workshops have also been supported in Malaysia, Singapore and for the ASEAN OSHNET. Regional activities will be carried out in ASEAN, West Africa and SADC, and other sub-regions subject to available resources. The projects are executed by UNITAR, in the context of the UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme, with funding from the Government of Switzerland, the European Union and other donors.

In order to take advantage of the time prior to the formal adoption of the GHS in 2003, UNITAR also initiated a number of pilot activities at the country and regional levels. In addition, a number of services to support these activities have been developed. Some highlights include:

  • pilot countries: Zambia, South Africa, Senegal, Sri Lanka (2001-2003)
  • regional awareness raising workshop for Mercosur and Andean Community countries of South America (2004)
  • regional awareness raising workshop and implementation report for SADC region (2003)
  • guidance materials for undertaking GHS-related situation analyses and national action plans
  • GHS capacity building library online (and in CD ROM format)
  • initiation of UNITAR/ILO/OECD WSSD Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS (September 2002)
  • meetings of the Programme Advisory Group (PAG) to review programme documents, ensure complementarities with other chemical hazard communication initiatives and provide guidance regarding Programme implementation
  • in July 2004, 65 countries have expressed an interest to UNITAR to participate in a GHS capacity development project.

2.4 WHAT RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE FROM UNITAR/ILO TO SUPPORT GHS CAPACITY BUILDING?

The UNITAR/ILO Programme provides guidance documents, educational, awareness-raising, resource and training materials regarding the GHS. Relevant topics include development of national GHS implementation strategies, legislation, situation/gap analyses, chemical hazards, labelling, safety data sheets (SDSs), as well as related support measures such as comprehensibility testing. When possible UNITAR/ILO can also facilitate expert resource persons for GHS related events.

2.5 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PROGRAMME ADVISORY GROUP (PAG)?

The Programme Advisory Group was established in order to benefit from the vast array of expertise and resources available in the area of chemical hazard communication and GHS implementation through international organisations, countries, industry, labour groups, universities and other interested parties. PAG meets biannually, reviews programme documents, ensures complimentarity with other hazard communication initiatives, and provides guidance regarding programme implementation. PAG reviews and discusses the development of guidance materials for capacity building and implementation of GHS and participation in GHS awareness raising activities.

2.6 HOW IS THE UNITAR/ILO GHS CAPACITY BUILDING PROGRAMME FUNDED?

GHS capacity building activities organized by UNITAR/ILO are funded by extra-budgetary resources. Past and present donors include the European Union, the Government of Switzerland, Foreign Affairs Canada, the Government of the Netherlands, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the United States Department of State. Interested countries and organizations that may be in a position to support project activities at the regional or country level are requested to contact UNITAR.

2.7 HOW CAN I CONTACT UNITAR FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT GHS CAPACITY BUILDING?

For more information about the GHS you can contact UNITAR and ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme:

Chemicals and Waste Management Programme
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)
Palais des Nations
CH- 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
FAX: + 41 22 917 8047
Email: cwm@unitar.org

and

International Labour Office (ILO)
4, route des Morillons
1211 Geneva 22
Switzerland
FAX: +41 22 799 6878
Email: safework@ilo.org

SECTION 3: THE WSSD PARTNERSHIP FOR CAPACITY BUILDING TO IMPLEMENT THE GHS
 

3.1 WHAT IS THE WSSD PARTNERSHIP?

In April 2002, UNITAR and ILO, in collaboration with OECD, initiated the WSSD Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS. The main goal of the WSSD GHS Partnership is to mobilize resources and implement a number of specific support activities to strengthen capacities at all levels and sectors – in particular in developing and transition countries – towards implementing the GHS for industrial workplace chemicals, agricultural chemicals, chemicals in transport and consumer chemicals. In response to a call for Partners prior to the WSSD, over 25 governments, international organizations, industry groups and NGOs responded with an interest to participate in the Partnership.

3.2 WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THE WSSD GHS PARTNERSHIP?

The goal of the WSSD GHS Partnership is to mobilize support and catalyze partnerships for coordinated activities at the global, regional and national levels to strengthen capacities in developing countries and countries in transition towards effective implementation of the GHS.

The WSSD Global Partnership also strives to strengthen capacities at all levels and sectors to ensure a higher degree of chemical labelling and related precautionary measures for industrial chemicals, agricultural chemicals, chemicals in transport and consumer chemicals.

In the medium and long-term, the Partnership is expected to lead to a decrease in environmental and human health related effects attributable to the use of hazardous chemicals. It thus makes a direct contribution to important objectives of sustainable development, including protection of marginalized groups, protection of food and water supplies and drinking water, and poverty eradication.

3.3 WHO ARE THE PARTNERS?

Partners in the WSSD Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS include a wide range governments, international organizations, business and industry groups, public interest and labour organizations, and academia and research bodies. UNITAR, working closely with ILO and OECD, provides the day-to-day coordination and secretariat function for the Partnership. The Partnership also links with the ECOSOC Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS (SCEGHS), the CSD, and the IOMC on issues relevant to GHS capacity building and identify needs for additional guidance materials.

3.4 WHAT ARE THE MAIN PARTNERSHIP ACTIVITIES?

At the First Meeting of Partners in July 2003, representatives from 16 governments, 8 intergovernmental organizations and 12 NGOs agreed to the proposed workplan and suggested activities as the framework for the Partnership. The Partnership framework workplan is structured around four programme areas:

1. GHS Capacity Development at the Regional Level,
2. GHS Capacity Development at the National Level,
3. Development of GHS Awareness Raising, Capacity Building Guidance and Training Materials,
4. Supporting Activities and Services for GHS Capacity Development.

The WSSD Partnership Annual Reports provide further information on the activities of the Partnership.

3.5 WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE MEETING OF THE PARTNERS FOR THE WSSD GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR CAPACITY BUILDING TO IMPLEMENT THE GHS?

The Partnership meetings are organized by UNITAR, in cooperation with ILO and OECD. They are expected to bring together governments, donors, intergovernmental organizations, and stakeholders, including industry, public interest, consumers and labour organizations that may be in a position to support Partnership activities financially or through in-kind contributions. The meetings take place approximately every three years following the semi-annual meeting of the UN ECOSOC GHS Subcommittee of Experts.

The First Meeting of the Partners was held in 2003 and laid the groundwork for global GHS capacity building over the following years. With the global GHS implementation date of 2008 rapidly approaching, the 2nd Meeting of the GHS Partnership was held 12 July 2007 to strategically review progress made to date and consider the actions and resources needed to further develop and strengthen the Partnership towards 2008 and beyond.  

The reports of the Partnership meetings from 2003 and 2007 can be found at: http://www.unitar.org/cwm/publications/ghs.aspx.

3.6 HOW DOES ONE JOIN THE WSSD PARTNERSHIP?

For further information on how to joint the Partnership please contact the Secretariat at the address below:

Chemicals and Waste Management Programmes
United Nations Institute for Training and Research
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland
FAX: + 41 22 917 8047
Email: gpghs@unitar.org
http://www.unitar.org/cwm/ghs_partnership/secretariat.htm

SECTION 4: GHS AND OTHER INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS
 

4.1 HOW DOES THE GHS RELATE TO THE UN RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE TRANSPORT OF DANGEROUS GOODS?

For the transport sector, the GHS uses the UN Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (UNRTDG). The UNRTDG 14th edition has been revised to be in line with the GHS.

By resolution 1999/65 of 26 October 1999 the United Nations Economic and Social Council decided to enlarge the mandate of the Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods by reconfiguring it into a Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods and on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (CETDGGHS), and by creating, besides the Sub-Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG Sub-Committee), a new Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS Sub-Committee).

4.2 WHAT IS THE RELATION OF THE GHS TO THE WHO RECOMMENDED CLASSIFICATION OF PESTICIDES BY HAZARD AND GUIDELINES TO CLASSIFICATION, AND TO THE FAO GUIDELINES ON PESTICIDE REGISTRATION AND GUIDELINES ON GOOD LABELLING PRACTICE FOR PESTICIDES?

FAO and WHO are in the process of integrating the principles of the GHS into their guidelines for pesticide classification, evaluation, registration and labelling and into other documents, where appropriate. The GHS provides a globally harmonized basis for hazard classification and WHO and FAO may play an important role in the pesticide registration process. As such, WHO and FAO will promote the implementation of the GHS in the field of pesticides through a number of activities, including, the integration of the hazard classification principles of the GHS into the next revision of the FAO Guidelines on Pesticide Registration and the integration of the labelling principles of the GHS into the next revision of the FAO Guidelines on Good Labelling Practice for Pesticides.

4.3 HOW DOES THE GHS RELATE TO THE STRATEGIC APPROACH TO INTERNATIONAL CHEMICALS MANAGEMENT (SAICM)?

While the GHS is an important standard in itself that countries may integrate into national and regional legislation and standards, implementation of the GHS also facilitates the implementation of other international agreements concerned with chemicals management. A new policy framework for international action on chemicals management, is the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM). The importance of implementing the GHS is recognised in the Overarching Policy Strategy (OPS) of SAICM – GHS implementation is identified under the overall objective of “knowledge and information”: (h) To promote implementation of the common definitions and criteria contained in the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. GHS also included as a SAICM work area in the Global Plan of Action, including 8 distinct activities. In particular, SAICM GPA activity #250 states “Make available sufficient financial and technical resources to support national and regional GHS capacity-building projects in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.” Participants at ICCM stressed importance of training and capacity building for implementing the GHS as part of SAICM, indicating further international recognition of the importance of countries and regions moving forward to include the GHS capacity building and implementation into overall chemicals management strategies and national SAICM implementation programmes.

4.4 HOW DOES THE GHS RELATE TO OTHER INTERNATIONAL CHEMICAL AGREEMENTS?

A number of international agreements exist that are relevant to sound chemicals management and GHS implementation. The Rotterdam Convention, which allows countries to monitor and control the trade in certain hazardous chemicals, has close links to hazard identification and communication issues and the GHS. The Convention requires countries to ensure that chemicals used for occupational purpose have a safety data sheets that follow an internationally recognised conduct. The international standard and format for SDS and labels are references to GHS. Additionally, the Stockholm Convention encourages parties to use the SDS, reports and other means of communication.  The Basel Convention, which deals with transboundary movement of hazardous waste, has established a correspondence working group with the UNSCEGHS in order to further promote synergies among the two bodies. The ILO Convention 170 also refers to the importance of evaluating chemical hazards and providing hazard information, especially in the workplace. Finally, the International Organisation for Standardization has developed a standard format for safety data sheets in order to establish uniformity. The ISO SDS will adopt the 16-heading format of SDSs under GHS.

GHS and the Rotterdam Convention

The Rotterdam Convention refers to a “desir[e] to ensure that hazardous chemicals that are exported from their territory are packaged and labelled in a manner that is adequately protective of human health and the environment” (Preamble). Article 13 requires that chemicals, listed in Annex III, when exported are subject to labelling requirements that ensure adequate availability of information with regard to risks and/or hazards to human health or the environment, taking into account relevant international standards; also Parties shall require that chemicals to be used for occupational purposes have a safety data sheet that follows an internationally recognized format, setting out the most up-to-date information available. The information on the label and on the safety data sheet should, as far as practicable, be given in one or more of the official languages of the importing Party.

GHS and the Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm POPs Convention underlines “the importance of manufacturers of persistent organic pollutants taking responsibility for reducing adverse effects caused by their products and for providing information to users, Governments and the public on the hazardous properties of those chemicals, (preamble)”. In Article 10 on “Public information, awareness and education”, the Convention encourages parties to use safety data sheets, reports, mass media and other means of communication.

GHS and the Basel Convention

Basel Convention Joint Correspondence Group with UN SCEGHS has been working towards harmonization of hazard classification systems and to improve consistency at the international level on the use of classification systems for wastes and chemicals. Use of the GHS can help to define hazardous characteristics of wastes under the Basel Convention while satisfying the needs of both international instruments.