Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals


In response to growing requests from countries for capacity building to support GHS implementation, UNITAR and ILO initiated in 2001 the "UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme". The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is a new internationally-agreed tool for chemical hazard communication, incorporating harmonized chemical hazard classification criteria and provisions for standardised labels and safety data sheets. Implementation of the GHS and sound chemical hazard communication requires initiatives, activities and capacities for three distinct actors: government, business and industry, and public interest and labour organisations. In addition, the provisions of the GHS affect chemical hazard communication in four key sectors at the national level; they include: industrial workplace, agriculture, transport, and consumer products.

Building upon existing initiatives of international organisations, countries and others, the UNITAR/ILO programme provides guidance documents, educational, awareness-raising, resource and training materials regarding the GHS. Relevant topics include development of national GHS implementation strategies, legislation, situation/gap analyses, chemical hazards, labelling, safety data sheets (SDSs), as well as related support measures such as comprehensibility testing. UNITAR and the ILO are the designated focal point for capacity building in the UN ECOSOC Subcommittee of Experts on the GHS (SCEGHS).

In 2008-2009, UNITAR is supporting national GHS implementation and capacity building projects in Vietnam, Jamaica, and Uruguay. In 2005-2007, UNITAR supported projects in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Nigeria, Senegal, Slovenia, Thailand, The Gambia, and The Philippines. Meetings and workshops have also been supported in Malaysia, Singapore and for the ASEAN OSHNET. Regional activities are being carried out in ASEAN, SADC, ECOWAS, CEE, the Arab region, and other sub-regions subject to available resources. The projects are executed by UNITAR, in the context of the UNITAR/ILO Global GHS Capacity Building Programme, with funding from the Government of Switzerland, the European Union and other donors.

As of March 2007, UNITAR/ILO have received 83 country requests for national GHS capacity building, as well as 4 concrete requests for GHS capacity building at the regional level.

In order to take advantage of the time prior to the formal adoption of the GHS in 2003, UNITAR initiated a number of pilot activities at the country and regional levels, with support of the governments of The Netherlands and Switzerland. In addition, a number of services to support these activities have been developed. Some highlights include:

GHS capacity building activities organised by UNITAR/ILO are funded by extra-budgetary resources. Interested countries and organisations that may be in a position to support project activities at the regional or country level are requested to contact UNITAR.