Safe Work Australia Proposes To Adopt Updated GHS Under The Model WHS Laws

Published July 06, 2019 (last updated July 23, 2020) -

Safe Work Australia (SWA) is conducting a public consultation on the proposal to adopt the seventh revision of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) for workplace hazardous chemicals.

The GHS is a single internationally agreed system of chemical classification and hazard communication through labelling and Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Currently different countries have different systems for classification and labelling of chemical products. These different systems make regulation of this hazard difficult, impose an additional burden on business and can impact on safe use at the workplace level. The GHS is published by the United Nations and includes ‘harmonized’ criteria for the ready classification and understanding of physical, health and environmental hazards.

The third edition of the GHS (GHS 3) has reportedly been implemented under the model Work Health and Safety laws since 2017.”It is time to consider moving beyond GHS 3 to ensure Australia’s classification and labelling requirements for workplace chemicals are aligned with our key trading partners, as they move to the seventh revised edition of the GHS (GHS 7),” Safe Work Australia stated earlier this week.

Safe Work Australia added that feedback received through the consultation will help ensure any changes to Australia’s classification and hazard communication requirements for workplace hazardous chemicals are implemented effectively.

The GHS sets out the way information about the hazards of chemicals and the precautions necessary to ensure safe storage, handling and disposal is explained to those using them.

The GHS uses pictograms, signal words and hazard and precautionary statements to communicate hazard information.

The consultation is currently open and will run until Saturday 28 July, 11:59pm (AEST). Safe Work Australia is seeking engagement, so implementation can be carried out, “in a way which minimises impacts to the industry.”

It has prepared several documents, including a consultation paper that contains ten questions requesting feedback from manufacturers, importers, suppliers and users of hazardous chemicals.

These include:

  • several questions relating to the timeframe – including whether Australia should transition to GHS 7 before the EU’s transition deadline of October 2020;
  • what online tools, guidance or fact sheets should be provided to ensure affected parties are prepared;
  • questions relating to Australia-specific examples of implementation; and
  • barriers to adopting GHS 7.

The consultation provides several documents comparing GHS 3 to GHS 7.

These include:

  • a detailed table of the changes;
  • precautionary statements for physical hazards; and
  • precautionary statements for health hazards.

The national safety regulator said it values the engagement of its stakeholders and feedback will help ensure any changes to Australia’s classification and hazard communication requirements for workplace hazardous chemicals are implemented in a way which minimises impacts to the industry.

Businesses are advised to contact [email protected] with any questions about the consultation.

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