To boost trade, particularly with SA’s largest trading partner, the European Union (EU), and protect human and environmental health, SA is hoping to be ready to use United Nations (UN) chemicals classification and labelling by the end of the year, Chemical & Allied Industries’ Association (CAIA) executive director Laurraine Lotter said yesterday.
Adopting the UN Globally Harmonised System would simplify trade as it will allow traders to avoid dealing with a range of different mandatory paperwork. The EU, Japan and New Zealand have adopted the system.
The Consumer Protection Act, which comes into effect on Friday, would add another important dimension as it would impose greater pressure on industry to provide information and warnings on packaging because, where someone is harmed through an accident, or the environment is damaged through pollutants, companies and CEOs could be held liable, said Responsible Packaging Management Association of SA’s president Liz Anderson.
Legal liability could apply on the grounds of “inadequate instructions or warning” regarding a hazardous product, said lawyer Candice Holland, associate director in Deloitte’s legal division. Contraventions would be adjudicated by a tribunal that had the authority to impose a fine of up to R1m per offence, and a notice to comply within a given period or face further fines and criminal liability, Ms Holland said.
SA had taken the UN classification and labelling requirements and incorporated them into its national standards for chemical classification, Ms Lotter said. They would become mandatory when they were promulgated as part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHS), it was hoped by the end of the year.
The Globally Harmonised System adds health and environmental risks to the risks that have to be highlighted by standardised symbols that would appear on packaging, and some consumer products would end up with up to 40 symbols on the new system, said Ms Anderson.
Department of Labour Occupational Health and Hygiene director Millysind Ruiters said amendments had been made to the OHS that would give the labour minister the power to enforce labelling and packaging regulations. However, these were still in bill form and needed to go through the parliamentary process, which made it difficult to predict when they would become law.
The amendments were needed so that the Globally Harmonised System could be enforced when it was promulgated, she said.
Industry is also expecting the system to be used in a regulation to be added to the National Environmental Management: Waste Act that is to be promulgated “any day now”, Ms Lotter said. The CAIA was also working with Southern African Development Community governments to have the South African standard accepted as the regional standard.
Source: Business Day