An introduction to classification and labelling of chemicals according to European law and the function of safety data sheets.
This page covers legislation that regulates classification and labelling of chemicals.
For practical examples, please see: Labelling
Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
Generally, substances and mixtures that are sold within the EU, must be classified and labelled in accordance with the regulation of classification, labelling and packaging (CLP). The CLP label must display the relevant hazard pictogram(s), signal word, hazard and precautionary statements along with supplemental information, where applicable. The label element must reflect the assigned classification of the substance or mixture. National legislation might be more restrictive than the EU Directive.
|Causes severe skin burns and eye damage.
The classification of a substance or mixture is based on its hazardous properties, with respect to physical hazards, health hazards or environmental hazards. The hazards are divided into different hazard classes, for example “Acute toxicity” or “Flammable liquids”.
|Abbreviation of classification
|Acute tox. 1
|Acute tox. 2
|Acute tox. 3
|Acute tox. 4
Each hazard class is divided into different categories, indicating the degree of the hazard. The category with the lowest number represents the most severe hazard. A chemical product may be classified into several hazard classes, in the relevant category.
Hazard statements describe the physical, health or the environmental hazards of the chemical. For example, Category 3 of “Acute Toxicity” must bear on the label the hazard statements H301 “Toxic if swallowed”, H311 “Toxic in contact with skin”, or H331 “Toxic if inhaled”, depending on by which route the chemical causes that effect.
While the hazard statements are related to a substance’s chemical properties, the precautionary statements describe how substances should be handled and stored in a safe way. The hazard and precautionary statements are numbered according to the type of hazard or precaution they code for. They have a specific wording in all EU and EEA languages and cannot be translated freely.
|Type of hazard
|Type of precaution
Safety Data Sheets
A safety data sheet must be provided together with all chemicals that are classified as hazardous according to the CLP Regulation, when supplied for professional or industrial use. A safety data sheet is a legally required document containing information on hazards as well as safe use.
The supplier of a substance or mixture must provide a safety data sheet, and remains responsible for the accuracy of the information they provide. The safety data sheet must be supplied free of charge, no later than when the substance or the mixture is first supplied to the recipient. It can be provided on paper or electronically, but it is not sufficient to only make it available on a web page. Unless the safety data sheet has been revised by the supplier, it is not necessary to provide it with subsequent deliveries to the same recipient. The updated version of a safety data sheet must be provided to all former recipients to which the substance or mixture has been supplied within the preceding 12 months.
All safety data sheets (SDS) must contain the following 16 sections.
- Identification of substance and of company
- Hazard(s) identification
- First aid measures
- Firefighting measures
- Accidental release measures
- Handling and storage
- Exposure controls/personal protection
- Physical and chemical properties
- Stability and Reactivity
- Toxicological information
- Ecological information
- Disposal considerations
- Transport Information
- Regulatory information
- Other information
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) consists of common criteria for classification and labelling of chemicals, adopted by the United Nations in 2002. The GHS principles are incorporated largely unchanged into EU legislation by the CLP and REACH Regulations. The aim of GHS is to harmonize rules for classifying chemical hazards by using a common format and content for labels and safety data sheets.