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February 2021
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Introduction to Chemical Safety Labels for Hazardous Chemicals

In recent years, the consumption and production of hazardous chemicals rise rapidly in the process of industrialization of countries.Meanwhile the safety accidents due to hazardous chemicals have occurred frequently. To prevent and reduce hazardous chemicals accidents, China has strengthened the safety management with the production, storage, use, operation, transportation and disposal of hazardous chemicals.

The regulators focus on chemical safety labelsin their supervision and administration of hazardous chemicals because chemical safety labels provide essential identifications to indicate the hazardous properties of chemicals. Entities engaging in hazardous chemicals industry, therefore, have started to put emphasis on chemical safety labels. This article will briefly introduce chemical safety labels under Chinese regulatory regime, including the importance, the preparation and the punishment thereof, and will also provide suggestions on regulatory compliance when making safety label.

The Importance of Chemical Safety Labels

Hazardous chemicals mean extremely toxic chemicals or other hazardous chemicals that are toxic, corrosive, explosive, flammable, or of accelerant nature, which damage human health, facilities and environment. The improper management of hazardous chemicals can result in enormous casualty and property loss.

The system of safety labeling of chemicals is established for the sake of enhancing the safety management. The chemical safety label is the identification compulsorily attached to the packaging of the hazardous chemicals in circulation that concisely indicates the dangerousness and safety precautions thereof by using lucid and comprehensible words and symbols, for the purpose of prompting the people who will contact with hazardous chemicals. Chemical safety labels can identify the hazard of the chemicals and specify the treatment measures related to the chemicals. Any person exposed to hazardous chemicals, by reading over the contents specified in chemical safety labels, will follow the instructions recorded thereon for the safe operation. Therefore, the chemical safety label system is one of the most effective measures to control hazards of the chemicals and prevent the occurrence of chemicals accidents.

Based on above, the chemical safety label has become the indispensable constituent part in the whole process of production, storage, use, operation, transportation and disposal of the hazardous chemicals throughout the world. China has also stressed the importance and necessity of chemical safety labels. In Regulations on Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals, Articles 15 and 37 specify that enterprises engaging in the production of hazardous chemicals shall provide the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), and attach or affix the chemical safety labels to the packaging (including outer packaging) indicating the hazardous chemicals contained, and are not allowed to deal with hazardous chemicals without MSDS or chemical safety labels. In addition, the General Office of the State Council, through its notice announced in 2016, also emphasized the conscientious implementation of requirements of the “MSDS and chemical safety labels” which shall be executed strictly by enterprises engaging in hazardous chemicals industry, ensuring that the safety information of dangerousness and safety precautions can be timely, precisely and thoroughly relayed to downstream enterprises, shippers, users, emergency responders and any other related departments and persons.

The Preparation of Chemical Safety Labels

Article 15 of Regulations on Safety Management of Hazardous Chemicals stipulates that chemical safety labels shall meet requirements of the relevant standards of the State. The General Rules for Preparation of Precautionary Label for Chemicals, with the number GB 15258-2009, is the national standard applied to the preparation, production and the use of chemical safety labels. (the “National Standard”)

According to the National Standard, chemical safety labels shall include the following necessary label elements:

  • Chemical Identifier: the chemical name or the generic name of the hazardous chemical shall be explicitly marked on top of chemical safety labels in Chinese and English. For the mixture, the chemical name or the generic name of the main components contributed to hazardous classification shall also be marked as well as the respective concentration thereto.
  • Signal Words: signal words, by using “Danger” or “Warning”, warn of danger rating of hazardous chemicals from high to low.
  • Pictogram and Hazard Statement: pictogram and hazard statement, by using the corresponding symbols as well as compact words, can directly describe the type and characteristic of inherent hazard of the chemical, or hazard level if it is necessary.
  • Precautionary Statement: precautionary statement shall be of simplicity, clarity and emphasis, stating the attention matter or issues during the operation works of chemicals and effective rescue measures in case of accidents. The contents thereof shall include measures regarding safety precautions, incident response, safety storage and waste disposal. The samples of Statements have been listed in Annexure C of the National Standard as a reference. In case that the volume of container or packaging is less than 0.1 liter, considering the size, simple chemical safety labels can be used without precautionary statement being presented.

Other Information: at the bottom of chemical safety labels, information of the supplier, phone number of the emergency consultation and reference reminder of the MSDS shall be clarified.

Except that the requisite elements shall be accurately contained in chemical safety labels, chemical safety labels shall be abrasion resistant and can be seen from great distance or in smoke condition. In this regard, chemical safety labels shall be attached or affixed in a conspicuous place of the packaging, and the materials used for chemical safety labels shall be durable and water-resistant. Furthermore, chemical safety labels shall be tightly pasted on or fastened to the distinct positions of the packaging or container of the chemical, to ensure that chemical safety labels will not come off or be damaged during the process of transportation and storage.

The National Standard provides the detailed requirements regarding the contents, the preparation and the use of chemical safety labels, and also annexes the samples of chemical safety labels and its pasting as reference. Preparing and using chemical safety labels in accordance with the National Standard and other standards concisely, to a great extent, can assist any person exposed to hazardous chemicals in proper operation, and avoid safety accidents caused by mishandling.

Legal Liabilities regarding Chemical Safety Labels

The work safety supervision and administration department is the primary competent authority in charge of the law enforcement of hazardous chemicals. Other relevant departments, including but not limited to the inspection and quarantine department, will also be responsible for the safety supervision and administration in different links of the import, operation, storage, transportation or disposal of hazardous chemicals.

Under one of the following circumstances with regard to chemical safety labels, the concerned party shall be ordered to make corrections and may be imposed a fine of not more than RMB 50,000; in case that the concerned party refuses to make corrections, a fine of not less than RMB 50,000 but not more than RMB 100,000 shall be imposed; and the ultimate sanction should be the punishment of business or production suspension for rectification:

  • A manufacturer who produces hazardous chemicals fails to attach or affix chemical safety labels to the packaging thereof (including outer packaging);
  • Information contained in the chemical safety labels of products does not reflect the properties of the hazardous chemicals contained therein;
  • Chemical safety labels do not comply with the relevant national standards;
  • A manufacturer who produces hazardous chemicals fails to modify the chemical safety labels with the hazardous properties newly discovered in its chemical products;
  • An enterprise engaging in the operation of hazardous chemicals conduct business operation in connection with hazardous chemicals without chemical safety labels .

Suggestions on Regulatory Compliance

Since hazardous chemicals, if not treated or disposed properly, are prone to dangerous situations and will have particularly pernicious effects on people’s lives and properties. A related entity shall adhere to the principles of giving priority to safety, focusing on prevention, and implementing comprehensive safety management and treatment approaches.

  • Not only for avoiding punishment, but also for the production safety of hazardous chemicals, enterprises that engage in the production, storage, utilization, operation, transportation or disposal of hazardous chemicals, shall strictly comply with the laws, administrative regulations, national standards, and industrial standards related to hazardous chemicals, drawing high attention on the compliance thereto. We hereby provide the following suggestions specifically for chemical safety labels based on the administrative regulations, national standards and practical cases:
  • Enterprises that engage in the production of hazardous chemicals shall strictly abide by the relevant national standards and regulations on preparing and using chemical safety labels. In case the requirements promulgated by local authorities do not accord with national regulations or national standards, it is recommended to adopt the stricter and tighter rules to avoid any possibility of substandard. Besides, enterprises shall provide training to their employees regarding the updates of the relevant regulations, national standards and local requirement regularly to ensure that they will comply with the latest requirements.
  • Enterprises engaging in the production of hazardous chemicals shall ensure the accuracy of the contents contained in chemical safety labels, which shall conform to the properties of hazardous chemicals. Wrong information presented on chemical safety labels will result in incorrect operation and may cause enormous damage. In addition, when discovering any new hazardous properties of chemical products, enterprises shall modify the relevant chemical safety labels in a timely manner.
  • Any enterprise that engages in the trade related to hazardous chemicals shall guarantee that each of the products under its control have been firmly attached or affixed with clear chemical safety labels, and shall not deal with hazardous chemicals without chemical safety labels.

When the responsible departments for the safety supervision and administration of hazardous chemicals conduct any supervision and inspection, entities or individuals concerned shall provide cooperation and shall not refuse or obstruct the said work in any way.After being found to have violated the relative laws or regulations, entities or individuals concerned shall cope with the punishment positively and correct any noncompliance immediately.

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