Technical assistance to the Commission on the implementation of GHS

Commissioned by:
European Commission, DG Environment


Carried out by:
Antonia Reihlen
Oekopol, Institute for Environmental Strategies, Hamburg, Germany

In co-operation with:
Beratungsstelle Arbeit und Gesundheit
December 2003 - June 2004
In the Rio Declaration of 1992, it was decided that "A globally-harmonized hazard classification and compatible labelling system including material safety data sheets and easily understandable symbols, should be available, if feasible, by the year 2000." In December 2002, the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) was agreed on at international level and in July 2003 it was formally adopted by the UN ECOSOC.
The Commission White Paper for a future Chemicals Policy proposes to simplify the current classification and labelling system through the GHS. Thus, the implementation of the GHS is planned in the EU and the current system of classification, labelling and safety data sheets as laid down in Directives 67/548/EEC (substances), 99/45/EC (preparations) and 91/155/EEC (safety data sheets) will be replaced.
The GHS is a voluntary system and foresees the possibility to implement only parts of it (building block approach).
The objective of the project is to provide the European Commission with a synopsis of the two classification systems. By comparing the two systems, it shall be identified which provisions are in agreement and which differ in the two systems. Differences may regard the coverage (gaps in the EU system compared to the GHS and vice versa) as well as methodological approaches.
The synopsis shall summarize the expert work on the GHS implementation of the past and indicate where additional work is necessary.
A two-part synopsis will be established by analysing the existing documents on the expert work and discussions already carried out at EU-level. The information is complemented by expert interviews.
It is hereby assessed which issues:
  • are in agreement in both systems
  • exist in the GHS, but are not covered by the current EU system
  • exist in the current EU system, but not in the GHS
  • are addressed in both systems, but in different ways.
The recommendations on how to implement the GHS in a future EU legislation are also summarised in the synopsis. Open questions are indicated and pre-discussed options are listed. The need for guidance materials is included in the synopsis as well.
Dirk Jepsen