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Australia to adopt GHS Hazardous Chemical Labelling

GHS Australia - Hazardous Chemical Labels

Bringing Australia’s Hazardous Chemicals Management into line with Global Standards

Last Friday 10 January 2020, Safe Work Australia agreed to adopt the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Revision 7 under the model WHS laws for workplace hazardous chemicals.

The two most significant changes will be:

  • Updated precautionary statements – which appear on product labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

  • Removing the requirement for the label of a hazardous chemical to disclose the identity and proportion of each ingredient.

Changes will take effect from 1 July 2020

Manufacturers and importers will have a two year transitional period to implement the changes. This will provide adequate time for new classifications to be prepared and for labels and Safety Data Sheets for to be updated to comply with the new requirements.

There was a strong motivation to begin before October 2020 to ensure that GHS Revision 7 labelled products coming from the EU are accepted in Australia – allowing EU compliant products to be imported into Australia without requiring costly re-labelling.

Importantly, suppliers and users will be able to continue to supply and use chemicals classified and labelled under GHS Revision 3 until their stocks run out.

Why have these changes been made?

Australia accounts for a very small percentage of world production of hazardous chemicals. It is important that our regulatory requirements are consistent with those of our major trading partners.

The current Australian requirement for labels of hazardous chemicals to disclose the identity and proportion of each ingredient, has always been contentious. Other markets, including the EU and United States do not require this information on the label, meaning that the requirement has been a cost burden to business. It has been argued that this does not improve overall product safety as the information is available in the product’s SDS. The change will allow more space on the label to increase text or pictogram size and for critical safety and usage instructions, rather than ingredient proportions.

The two-year transitional period beginning in July 2020 will align us with the end of the European Union’s (EU) transition that commenced in July 2016. This means that the five-year review cycle for SDS is likely to fall within our two-year transitional period – as many SDS were updated to meet GHS requirements in mid to late 2016.


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