28 April 2011

EcoWaste Coalition Promotes Picture Warnings to Keep Workers Safe from Chemical Exposure

A toxic watchdog has made a pitch for workers’ safety from dangerous chemicals through the promotion of internationally-recognized pictograms.

At a workshop held today on the eve of the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work,” members of the EcoWaste Coalition took time off to get acquainted with the United Nations-prescribed labelling requirements for chemicals such as chemical hazard symbols.

“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 they should observe,” said Aileen Lucero, chemical safety campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

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

To emphasize the importance of chemical hazard symbols, EcoWaste members displayed nine pictograms as prescribed under the GHS, or the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

The nine GHS pictograms, which visually convey the hazardous properties and hazard severity of a chemical, are for chemicals that are described as “corrosive,” “explosive,” “flammable,” “acutely toxic,” “acutely aquatic toxic,” “carcinogenic,” “ irritant,” “gas under pressure,” and “oxidizer.”

GHS National Coordinator Angelita Arcellana from the Department of Trade and Industry-Board of Investments noted the ongoing effort of the government to implement the GHS locally.

She cited the Joint Administrative Order (JAO) issued on May 25, 2009 to formally 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, according to Arcellana is a system for standardizing and harmonizing the classification and labelling of chemicals.

Citing information from the JAO, Arcellana said that GHS is a logical and comprehensive approach to:

a. Defining health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals;
b. Creating classification processes that use available data on chemicals for comparison with the defined hazard criteria; and
c. Communicating hazard information, as well as protective measures, on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS).


Reference:

Joint DTI-DENR-DA-DOF-DOH-DILG-DOLE-DOTC Administrative Order No. 01, Series of 2009:
http://www.boi.gov.ph/image/joint%20administrative%20order%20no.%201%20series%20of%202009%20-%20%20the%20adoption%20and%20implementation%20of%20ghs.pdf

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