Hazardous Chemicals

Chemical compliance in terms of REACH, GHS and CLP

Learn how to navigate the European regulatory landscape and manage SDS updates and chemical labelling

5 minutes02/24/2022

By Dr Alex Paul

Regulatory pressure is increasing. With new laws put in place every year to govern the production/use of chemicals and with existing regulations constantly changing to keep pace with scientific advancement, navigating the chemical regulatory landscape has become a challenge. As a result of this rapidly growing complexity, many companies now find that their regulatory compliance and environmental health and safety (EHS) teams are falling behind due to lack of capacity and staffing shortages.

Not only are businesses forced to stay up to date with changes, but they must do so while also ensuring they can deliver on all of their regulatory requirements. And as more and more countries implement their own varieties of chemical legislation, this challenge expands to the global level.

Companies dealing with hazardous substances internationally face numerous challenges, such as:

  • Geographic Barriers: Chemicals are used, supplied and manufactured worldwide and despite efforts to harmonize global systems, the definitions and requirements for hazardous chemicals, environmental and workplace safety laws still vary widely - from state to state, region to region and country to country. Add in an increasingly complex legislative framework (REACH, CLP, BPR, etc.), and it becomes tough for companies to stay on top of the requirements and secure access to all markets.
  • Language Barriers: Moving chemicals from one country to another means that manufacturers and shippers are very likely to run into problems of communication across different languages and cultures.

In this article you will learn more about REACH and its requirements regarding the compilation of the SDS (safety data sheet), GHS and CLP labelling. You will also learn how to improve your chemical compliance and discover how new technologies can help you face and master the aforementioned challenges.

GHS: Globally Harmonized System of classification and labelling of chemicals

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals helps harmonize classification and labelling for companies and aims to decrease the regulatory burden for businesses handling, storing and using hazardous chemicals. Complying with GHS standards requires chemical containers to have a harmonized signal word, pictogram, hazard statement (for each hazard class and category) and precautionary statement.

GHS was developed as a way to bring into agreement the chemical regulations and standards of different countries. Before GHS, different countries had their own established systems for the classification and labelling of chemical products. While existing systems were similar in many respects, their differences were significant enough to result in different hazard classifications, labels, or SDS for the same product. Even with GHS, classification variations may remain from one country to another where data is interpreted differently or different data is used. This proves challenging to regulate and enforce, costly for companies who had to comply with many different systems, and confusing for workers who needed to understand the hazards of a chemical in order to work safely.

CLP: Regulation for Classification, Labelling and Packaging

The European Regulation (EC) 1272/2008 - also known as CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) Regulation - incorporates the GHS classification criteria and labelling rules as agreed upon at the UN level. With CLP, European countries were mandated to adopt a global system of classifying and labelling hazardous substances which helped:

  • Promote regulator efficiency
  • Facilitate trade
  • Ease compliance
  • Reduce costs
  • Provide improved, consistent hazard information.
  • Encourage the safe transport, handling and use of chemicals
  • Promote better emergency response to chemical incidents.
  • Reduce the need for animal testing.

The REACH chemical regulation

The European Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 - also known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation - came into force on 1 June 2007. REACH is equally and directly applicable in all EU Member States.

REACH remains a considerable challenge for companies to uphold, especially in the current climate of global shortages, shipping disruption and cost inflation that is forcing them to find alternative suppliers. Although the 1-ton registration threshold is well understood, this may still present a barrier to accessing the market quickly. Furthermore, REACH continues to develop and has been implementing legislation to address fees, data sharing, nanomaterials, deadlines and more. Future developments will likely focus on managing restrictions, authorizations, endocrine disruptors and polymers.

REACH annex II and the compilation of SDS (safety data sheets)

Annex II to REACH lays out requirements for the compilation of SDSs (safety data sheet) for substances and mixtures. It addresses format, content, and provides section-by-section directions for the development of an SDS for the European Union.

As of 2020, The European Commission has amended Annex II of REACH. Although safety data sheets don’t change very often, this update altered the requirements for the SDS format and its data content. This means all SDSs compiled according to the old Annex II requirements now have to be rewritten to comply with the updated requirements.

Improving chemical compliance with technology

So, how can you best face the challenges of dealing with hazardous substances internationally and comply with REACH, GHS and CLP? A growing number of businesses are turning to technology to solve their chemical regulatory compliance concerns. For example, cloud-based SDS and chemical inventory EHS solutions allow companies of all sizes to retrieve, store and update their safety data sheets, eliminating the need for cumbersome physical binders and outdated spreadsheets to track inventory.

SDS management software programs are proving to be a very beneficial resource to companies, especially as the Annex II deadline approaches.

So how can technology help?

  • Centralizing data, making it easier to access. Any changes in data are given increased visibility and can be tracked across different functions and regions.

  • Reducing manual data inputs and related errors.

  • Providing real-time maintenance and updates to SDS and label management while remaining in compliance with existing GHS guidelines

  • Reducing time-to-market through greater efficiency.

  • Promoting better OSHA compliance through integrated Safety Data Sheets (SDS) management and removing the need to maintain physical paperwork on product safety documentation.

Since joining Yordas Group Dr Alex Paul has been central to managing the Group's regulatory services including: EU-REACH, UK-REACH, KKDIK, BPR and other global notifications. He has been extensively involved in supporting REACH projects, providing Only Representative support to clients throughout the Group.