Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Group pushes picture warnings for workplace chemical safety

An environmental group made a pitch on Thursday for the use of internationally-recognized pictograms to protect workers from dangerous chemicals in the workplace.

EcoWaste Coalition made the call to use United Nations-prescribed chemical hazard symbols, on the eve of the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work."

“Familiarizing ourselves with chemical classification and labelling standards is essential in empowering workers to know what types of chemical they handle, the dangers involved in handling such substances and the precautionary steps that should be observed," said Aileen Lucero, the group's chemical safety campaigner.

“The pictograms, in particular, are useful tools that provide workers with visual information and warning on hazardous chemicals that can endanger their health," she added.

EcoWaste particularly pushed nine pictograms as prescribed under the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

The nine GHS pictograms visually convey the hazardous properties and hazard severity of a chemical, such as:
# Corrosive
# Explosive
# Flammable
# Acutely toxic
# Acutely aquatic toxic
# Carinogenic
# Irritant
# Gas under pressure
# Oxidizer

Pictograms can be downloaded from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's website on GHS.

Meanwhile, Lucero noted the ongoing effort of the Philippine government to implement the GHS locally.

She cited the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) issued on May 25, 2009 to adopt and implement the GHS in the country by eight government departments, including the Departments of:
# Agriculture;
# Environment and Natural Resources;
# Finance;
# Health;
# Interior and Local Government;
# Labor and Employment;
# Transportation and Communications, and
# Trade and Industry.

GHS is a system for standardizing the classification and labelling of chemicals. The system:
# defines the health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals;
# creates classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria; and
# communicates hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).

“We hope that the Implementing Rules and Regulations will be completed soon so our country, especially our workers, can benefit from the GHS chemical classification and hazard information and communication system," Lucero said.


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