Chemicals play a fundamental role in societies. However, alongside the benefits, they bring potential risks to people and the environment. Effective classification and communication schemes of hazards are key for the sound management of chemicals, but many countries do not have the legal and technical capacities in place to do so. The same chemical hazards are sometimes classified and communicated in different ways in different countries. As a result, workers, consumers, and the environment are not uniformly protected. The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) has been developed to enhance and standardize this protection, across the globe.
The GHS is an internationally-agreed system that provides countries with the regulatory building blocks to develop or modify existing national programmes. It sets criteria for the classification of chemical hazards and offers protective measures through labels and safety data sheets. Following-up on Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 from the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the first official version of the GHS was endorsed by the United Nations in 2003. Since then, over 60 countries around the world have begun to implement it, partly or entirely (see http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/implementation_e.html#c41818 for the latest information).
The GHS offers a powerful tool for the sound management of chemicals and waste, workplace safety, human health and the environment, international trade, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For the latest version of the GHS official text, please visit: http://www.unece.org/trans/danger/publi/ghs/ghs_welcome_e.html.
UNITAR's role in the GHS
With the goal of protecting human health and the environment, UNITAR plays an active role in capacity building for countries and regions to implement the GHS, as well as in providing information and outreach on GHS at regional and international levels.
Within the United Nations Sub-Committee of Experts on the GHS, UNITAR and the International Labour Organization (ILO) act as focal points for capacity building in developing countries.
In addition, UNITAR plays a central role in the following bodies:
- UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme: provides training on classification, labelling and safety data sheets, situation/gap analyses, implementation strategies, legislation;
- The Programme Advisory Group (PAG) for the UNITAR/ILO/IOMC GHS Training and Capacity Building Programme: reviews documents, provides guidance and ensures coordination with other hazard communication initiatives;
- The Global Partnership to Implement the GHS: mobilises resources and implement support activities to support implementation around the world
- Developing and executing additional national and regional projects on the GHS;
- Providing additional editions of the GHS e-Learning course, including translations to French and Spanish;
- Delivering tailor-made GHS courses (e-Learning and face-to-face), as well as a train-the-trainer course;
- Building and promoting partnerships with the private sector;
- Promoting experience-sharing, information exchange and synergies.