What Does EU Chemicals Legislation Mean for the Labelling Industry?

Hazard pictograms

EU Legislation Aims To Standardise and Harmonise The Labelling System For Chemical Products

When it comes to storing, transporting and distributing chemicals, clear and accurate labelling is of vital importance. Chemical labels help to identify dangerous chemicals as well as alerting handlers to the potential hazards of the products and any safety precautions that need to be taken. This type of packaging label is extremely important in ensuring the appropriate use, storage and disposal of potentially dangerous chemicals.

If an incident does occur, immediate access to the product data is essential, and clear labelling can help emergency services to coordinate an efficient, appropriate and effective response that minimises the impact.

EU Labelling Legislation

In order to improve safety and minimise the risk of dangerous incidents, the EU has introduced legislation which sets out to harmonise and standardise the way in which chemical products are labelled across the European Union. There are two main pieces of legislation.

The first of these is REACH. REACH concerns the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals and applies to substances that are either manufactured in or imported into the EU. It has several aims, including protecting human health and the environment, and making manufacturers and importers responsible for understanding and managing the risks associated with their products.

Closely related to REACH (and of particular relevance to the labelling industry) is the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging) Regulation. This regulation aims to ensure that any dangers posed by chemicals are clearly communicated to EU workers and consumers through a standardised system of classification and labelling, so that people are aware of the effects of a chemical prior to handling.

CLP is based on the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of labelling, and the aim is that, in time, the same labelling and classifications will be used throughout the world.

Labelling Specifications

When it comes to displaying product information, the CLP regulation mandates several key specifications which labelling companies need to be aware of:

  • Hazard Pictograms – under CLP, hazard pictograms have been given a new colour, shape and design. These pictograms convey key information about the hazards posed by the product.
  • Hazard statements – hazard statements describe the specific dangers posed by the chemical in question and these replace the ‘risk phrases’ required under the CHIP (Chemical Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply) Law.
  • Precautionary Statements – replacing the standard CHIP ‘safety phrases’, the precautionary statements inform handlers of the measures that should to be taken on exposure to the product.
  • Signal Word – under CLP, all chemical labels have to display a signal word of ‘warning’ or ‘danger’ to signify the severity of the hazard.

As always, all chemical labels should be durable and of high quality, and made of a material that is able to withstand both contact with the chemical in question, and every-day wear and tear. Where transported by ship, labels should conform to the BS5609 marine approved standard.

Success So Far?

Since first being introduced, REACH and the CLP Regulation have had some success, with a recent ECHA report finding that chemicals are being used more safely, leading to higher protection for people and the environment.

However, the ECHA also recognised that there are still improvements to be made. One of the report recommendations is that a review of the CLP is carried out as companies are often providing contradictory classifications for substances. With this in mind, both the chemical and labelling industries should be prepared for additional changes in the near future.

Understanding Your Duties

The new REACH and CLP regulations came into force several years ago but companies have had a grace period while the new legislation bedded in. However, the transition period ended last year, so it’s crucial that both chemical manufacturers and labelling companies are aware of their obligations under these regulations.

The ECHA has published a guide to the CLP. This provides comprehensive information on the regulations to assist companies in understanding the new duties, helping to ensure that they don’t fall foul of the law.