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Chemical Labeling Regulations

Lots of people use chemicals every day at work without even realising it but the reality is that a huge range of everyday products such as bleach, paints, oven sprays, inks and glues can all be classed as chemicals.

In most cases chemicals at work won’t present a threat but for those that do there are strict guidelines about how they should be used and further legislation is on the horizon to help keep workers safe, regardless of whether or not they spend their days locked away in a laboratory.

The main legislation surrounding chemicals is the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), which is a European Regulation that aims to protect human health and the environment from the risks arising from the use of chemicals.

The regulation actually places most of the burden on organisations that manufacture and import chemicals into EU countries and require all chemicals to be registered with the European Chemicals Agency. The information on the database is then used to assess potential hazards that a chemical could pose and only registered chemicals can be legally produced and supplied in Europe in quantities of one tonne or more.

In 2010 new regulations were also introduced to control the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals. These regulations, known as CLP, are being phased in now to provide a globally harmonised system for the labelling and classification of chemicals and from June 2015 it will replace the Chemicals (Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Regulations 2009.

The new CLP hazard labels feature pictograms that look similar to the old labels but the familiar orange backgrounds have been replaced with black symbols, in red boxes on white backgrounds. The main symbols identify substances that are toxic, flammable, explosive, corrosive and those that cause skin and eye irritations and environmental damage. There are also a couple of new ones for products containing pressurised gas or substances that are known to cause serious longer term health problems such as carcinogenicity and respiratory diseases.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) remain key documents in the safe supply, handling and use of chemicals and should be supplied with all hazardous chemicals. An SDS contains relevant information about potential hazards as well as information on handling, storage and emergency measures in case of an accident. These sheets continue to be hugely valuable to employers carrying out COSHH risk assessments.

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