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Global Harmonization System: 1 Year On

As a leading label manufacturer of chemical labelling we were heavily involved in helping businesses achieve GHS compliance. What surprised us above all else was the last minute scramble to act. We continued to receive requests for guidance on the reclassification and relabelling of goods right up to and beyond the deadline date.

Undoubtedly, in some cases, this sense of urgency resulted in some decisions relating to labels and label printing systems being based purely on the timescale and ease of implementation rather than the long-term commercial benefit to business.

One year on there are still questions surrounding GHS, some of the most common we will attempt to answer here.

Which of my products are affected?

All chemical substances and mixtures which are imported, manufactured or distributed within the EEA are affected by the CLP (Classification, Labelling and Packaging Regulations) component of GHS.  Even scented candles are made up of a combination of wax, scented oil, wick etc. making them a mixture essentially, so they must be labelled in accordance with CLP.

Substances not covered by CLP are radioactive substances, substances in the control of Customs, substances for scientific research with are not placed on the market, and waste covered by the 2006/12/EC directive.

EU Member States can grant permissions for the movement of hazardous substances and mixtures if they are in the interest of national defence. Some goods which are supplied directly to the end user in their downstream finished state such as cosmetics, medicines and food substances are also exempt.

Do I have to relabel existing stock?

Mixtures placed on the market before 1st June 2015 which were not labelled in accordance with CLP must be relabelled by 1st June 2017 if still in circulation.

However, in the case of pure substances, the directive came into force on 1st December 2010 so all products on the market should have been re-labelled to achieve compliance by 1st December 2012.

What data must be included on a CLP label?

The label must include:

  • The name, address and telephone number of the supplier
  • The nominal quantity of a substance or mixture in the packages made available to the general public (unless this quantity is specified elsewhere on the package)
  • Product identifiers (product name etc.)
  • Where applicable, hazard pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, precautionary statements and supplemental information required by other legislation

I am marketing a new mixture, where can I find the associated pictogram?

All relevant pictograms are available to download from the UN’s website.

Pictograms must be printed in black within a red diamond.  There are no specific pantone colours governing this.

Can I buy labels pre-printed with red diamonds and leave diamonds blank where appropriate?

Best practice suggests that the number of red diamonds on the label should correspond directly with the number of pictograms used. Therefore we strongly recommend against it.

Do I need to stock multiples of pre-printed labels to suit the required number of red diamonds?

Not necessarily, although this principal is true in the case of thermal transfer printers.

IML recommend that, if you market several different products calling for multiple layouts, a full colour printer used with BS5609 approved blank media may be more beneficial to your business.

I’m having alignment problems with my thermal transfer printer. Is there a remedy?

There are many benefits to using thermal transfer printers including speed and economy, but one downside of using a black only thermal transfer printer for chemical labelling is the time spent, and labels wasted, getting the overprinted pictogram to align correctly with the pre-printed diamond.

If this is a problem for your staff give us a call and we’ll explain how a two colour thermal transfer printer or full colour label printer could alleviate this and improve workflow efficiency.

Can I create a “combination label” which incorporates CLP regulatory information, IMDG transport diamond and my branding on a single label?

Yes, some businesses prefer a multi-functional “combination label” as it looks professional and keeps everything looking tidy.

The NeuraLabel 500e supports large format labelling so all relevant data such as hazardous warnings, IMDG transport diamonds, product information and corporate branding can be printed, in full colour, onto a blank label keeping your operations streamlined.

The chemical industry has long called for continuous printing of chemical labels in rolls (suitable for applicators) or fan-folds – the NeuraLabel 500e answers this demand.

Where can I see a demo of the NeuraLabel 500e printer?

The technology is new and market interest is high, so we are currently holding regular open day sessions where small groups of delegates from the chemical sector can witness a demonstration of the printer and how it interacts with software, label media and consumables.

These informal sessions also provide the opportunity for questions and queries and end in a light lunch and tour of our production facilities.  So far the open day sessions have been well received.  However, we can provide one-to-one demonstrations if required.

Call +44 (0)114 2422111 or email to book your place at our next open day session or request an exclusive demonstration.

We are also able to hold demonstration sessions at our site in Cambridge if Sheffield is too far for your staff to travel.

Could I integrate my existing product database into a new label printing system?

EnLabel software supports full database integration. You can try the programme free.

Can software auto-generate hazardous statements and labels?

Talk to our partner Safeware Quasar. They are experts in this field and have developed software programmes which work in conjunction with your database of products and ingredients to author the appropriate safety data sheets and labels.

I’m not convinced I have the best printer for my needs, what should I do?

Talk to us. We have chemical labelling consultants who can visit your site, talk to you about the range of options available and recommend the best system for your operations, product range and budget.

I have a label supplier in place, why should I talk to IML?

Our goal is to create a good quality, long-term working relationship which adds value to your business, rather than making a one-off sale, so we are meticulous in matching the best label and printing system for the immediate and future needs of your business.

We’ve been producing specialised labelling, for use in harsh environments, since 1936.  We supply to a wide range of industry sectors and, in this way, we have expanded our range and ridden out the inevitable economic recessions and industry downturns.

Our reputation for consistently high quality labels and customer service is driven by our enthusiasm for continuous improvement.  We can’t guarantee we’ll be cheaper than your existing supplier but we’ll aim to be better.

Call +44 (0)114 2422111, email or visit