Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an internationally agreed system for classification and communication of hazards posed by chemicals.

Thousands of chemicals are produced, traded and used internationally, many of which have dangerous properties. These chemicals can be managed safely if appropriately labelled, but many developing 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 protected in the same way.

To tackle this challenge, since 2003, countries have begun to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS document (“The Purple Book”) provides countries with the regulatory building blocks to develop or modify existing national programmes in accordance with the internationally agreed provisions of the GHS. The first official version of the GHS was adopted in December 2002 by the UN ECOSOC Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (UN-SCEGHS) and published in 2003. The GHS puts in place relevant recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods (1956), the ILO Convention No. 170 (1990) and Chapter 19 of Agenda 21. UNITAR and ILO are the designated focal points for capacity building in the UN-SCEGHS.

In response to growing requests from developing countries for capacity development to implement the GHS, UNITAR and ILO initiated in 2001 the "UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme". The Programme provides training on the development of situation/gap analyses, national GHS implementation strategies, legislation, chemical hazard classification, labelling, safety data sheets (SDS), as well as related support measures such as comprehensibility testing.

WSSD Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS

The Global Partnership for Capacity Building to Implement the GHS was launched by UNITAR, ILO, and OECD in 2002. The goal of the WSSD Global Partnership is to strengthen capacities at all levels and sectors – in particular in developing countries – to ensure a higher degree of chemical labelling and related precautionary measures for industrial chemicals, agricultural chemicals, chemicals in transport, and consumer chemicals.

Programme Advisory Group

The Programme Advisory Group (PAG) for the UNITAR/ILO/IOMC GHS Training and Capacity Building Programme was established because capacity building and training in the area of chemical hazard communication and GHS implementation can benefit from a vast array of expertise and resources through international organisations, countries, industry, labour groups, universities, and other interested parties. The PAG reviews programme documents, ensures complimentarites with other hazard communication initiatives, and provides guidance regarding Programme implementation. The 19th meeting of the PAG took place in December 2012 and the 20th meeting of the PAG will take place in December 2014. To acess the documents from previous PAG meetings, please contact ghs@unitar.org.

Project on Strengthening National and Regional Capacities to Implement the GHS in ASEAN -- Phase II

In the context of the UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme, and funded by the European Union, a 3-year project to strengthen national and regional capacities to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) in countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was initiated in January 2010. The project, which builds on the successful first phase conducted from 2005-2007 (which trained more than 1,500 government, industry, and non-governmental beneficiaries), will be expanded to include other key regional partners during the period 2010-2012. Partner countries include: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and PR China. Regional activities will involve all ten ASEAN member countries, and well as China, Japan, and Korea (“ASEAN +3”), and other regional partners and organizations.

These webpages provide information about the national, regional, and supporting activities undertaken in the context of the project and will be updated periodically with relevant information, documents, and outcomes.

For background on the project, click here.

To view the project information note, click here.


GHS Links