The GHS is an international set of rules for the classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals, which must be implemented in national law. In Switzerland the implementation is taking place in a stepwise fashion through the amendment of existing ordinances. Since 20 January 2009, chemicals for applications in trade and industry in Switzerland are classified and labelled according to the GHS.
At the 1992 UN Conference in Rio de Janeiro on environment and development, it was agreed to develop a Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS contains, in particular:
- Criteria for the classification and labelling of chemical substances and mixtures
- Measures for communicating the hazards associated with substances and mixtures.
At the 2002 UN Summit 2002 it was recommended that the GHS should be integrated into national or regional law by 2008.
The EU has implemented the GHS in its CLP Regulation
On 20 January 2009, the EU brought into force Regulation (EC) No. 1272/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on the classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, also known as the CLP Regulation.
The CLP Regulation requires producers, importers and downstream users to classify, and suppliers to label and package, their substances and mixtures according to the new rules before placing them on the market.
State of harmonisation of Swiss law with the GHS
By amending the Chemicals Ordinance (ChemO) on 14 January 2009 the Federal Council completed the first step in the introduction of the GHS in Switzerland. Since 1 February 2009, chemicals (substances and preparations) in Switzerland may be placed on the marker for trade and industry applications if they have been classified, labelled and packaged according to the rules of the CLP Regulation. In this way, Switzerland avoids creating trade barriers in the cross-border transport of chemicals. The existing high level of protection in the handling of chemical products remains.
The FOEN carried out an economic assessment (VOBU) as a basis for decision-making in the introduction of the GHS in Switzerland. The objective of the VOBU was to ascertain how introducing the GHS would affect the Swiss economy. The results show that the lowest cost route would be through introducing the GHS in Switzerland at the same time as in the EU, and with the same contents. In comparison with the cost of chemical management, the one-time costs of implementing the GHS, spread over several years, seem tolerable for businesses.
In the long term it can be expected that the worldwide introduction of the GHS will facilitate world trade in chemical products and improve communication about the hazardous properties of chemicals.
Further steps towards complete implementation of the GHS
After market access for chemicals labelled and packaged according to the GHS/CLP has been ensured in Switzerland, there will be a need for further harmonisation of law at the level of ordinances, in order to achieve the goal of introducing the GHS in Switzerland at the same time as in the EU, and with the same contents.
In future, permission to place on the market chemicals that have been classified, labelled and packaged according to the GHS/CLP should be extended to products for the general public, and the transitional periods for adjustment to the GHS/CLP for substances and preparations should be subject to binding regulations.
Finally, the so-called follow-up obligations, i.e. statutory provisions based on the classification or labelling of substances and preparations, must also be harmonised with provisions of the GHS/CLP system. These include rules on dispensing chemicals, reporting requirements, and rules covering consumer protection (e.g. for cosmetics, toys) and workplace safety, as well as thresholds for risk assessment in accident prevention.
Last modification 07.02.2023