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GHS, don’t leave it until the last minute

David Willcox, business development manager, Oki Systems UK explains the risks of missing the deadline and the practical and affordable solutions on offer.

Most of us would agree that a Globally Harmonised System (GHS) for chemical labelling and packing makes sense in our increasingly globalised markets.

It also seems reasonable that manufacturers or suppliers of GHS labelling also comply with BS5609 to meet European directives and the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) laws, even if their products are not being shipped overseas at first. Many do not necessarily know who their downstream users will be, so this level of compliance is common-sense best practice.

However, although most of the industries involved are aware that GHS becomes mandatory in July 2015 for all chemical preparations and mixtures as well as pure chemicals, many are still confused about the practical considerations.

It’s understandable – there is still a year to go before the deadline. But there is a need to reassess printing and software requirements, implement new software and integrate it with mainstream business systems, where necessary. With all companies in the chemicals industry trying to do the same thing before the same date, some run the risk of being at the back of the queue and so failing to comply in time.

So what changes are needed? Many people we speak to are confused about which printers and software to use. Unfortunately for those currently using mono or one-colour printers to create the old flood-coated orange, CHiP standard labels, the new labels will need a two-colour printer at least as the new red diamond must be printed at the same time as the hazard symbol. Also, if the methods for printing is not robust enough, the labels will not be legible after exposure to the elements or, worse still, if lost overboard from the ships transporting them.

To print GHS labels that meet full compliance with BS5609 – and therefore the European directives and IMDG – the media, adhesive and printed image all have to pass parts 1,2 and 3 of the standard. Therefore, it’s prudent to use printers that have been independently tested and certified to BS5609 standard.

So, is the answer a specialised thermal printer? For large companies printing huge label runs it may be. However for those who typically need short runs of, say, up to 1,000 there are more affordable and flexible solutions on offer. Any chemicals being transported across national borders will need to carry the appropriate hazard statements and precautions in the relevant language. Therefore, companies will often be required to create new labels at short notice as and when required – and their chosen printing solution will need to support them in doing this.

Today, there are printers on the market – such as OKI’s solutions for GHS labels, approved to BS5609 and IMDG standards that start at a fraction of the cost of a specialised thermal device. These can be used with any compliant software package. Return on these devices is high as they can be used for day-to-day admin printing and material safety data sheets (MSDS). Their full-colour capability means that they can be used for branding and marketing purposes too – for including logos or printing marketing collateral up to A3 and banner size up to 1200mm.

Although many firms are hesitant about making their move towards GHS – they are far from complacent. There have been too many high-profile pollution incidents over the past years to illustrate the risks of non-compliance of any kind.

However, many need a firm nudge and a reminder not to leave it to the last minute, especially when there are straightforward and practical solutions to the challenge.

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