Spotlight On – Changes to labels on chemical packaging (CLP Regulations)

Changes to labels on chemical packaging (CLP Regulations)

In this article, we’re looking at the recent changes to labels on chemical packaging.

The CLP Regulation, which deals with classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures, came into force in January 2009.  CLP adopts the United Nations’ Globally Harmonised System (GHS) on the classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS) across all European Union countries, including the UK.

GHS is a voluntary agreement rather than a law, so it has to be adopted through a suitable national or regional legal mechanism to ensure it becomes legally binding. This is what the CLP Regulation does.

As GHS was heavily influenced by the old EU system, the CLP Regulation is very similar in many ways. The duties on suppliers are broadly the same: classification, labelling and packaging.

CLP uses a new set of hazard pictograms (quite similar to the old ones):


If you use chemicals at work, you should:

  • look out for the changes and check that you are doing what is needed to use the chemical safely
  •  If you are an employer, alert your employees to these changes, too
  • Speak to your chemical suppliers if you have any questions or if you don’t understand the changes that have been made
  • If you are an employer, provide your employees with adequate information, instruction and training
  • follow the advice provided on the new labels and, where appropriate, in Safety Data Sheets

COSHH Assessment

Remember that other laws apply when using chemicals at work to ensure the protection of workers.  For information about the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) follow this link.

There are some groups to which the CLP Regulations do not apply

While most industrial chemicals are covered by the CLP Regulation, some chemicals that have a more specialised job are covered by more specific legislation.

The CLP Regulation does not apply to the following chemicals:

  • radioactive substances and mixtures
  • substances and mixtures subject to customs supervision
  • non-isolated intermediaries
  • substances and mixtures for scientific research and development which are not placed on the market and are only used in controlled conditions
  • waste

The CLP Regulation does not apply to the following chemicals which are in the finished state intended for the final user:

  • medicines
  • medical devices
  • veterinary medicines
  • cosmetics
  • food
  • feeding stuffs (i.e. food additive; food flavouring; feeding stuffs used in animal nutrition)

CLP hazard pictograms

CorrosiveExplosive (Symbol: exploding bomb)

FlammableFlammable (Symbol: flame)

OxidisingOxidising (Symbol: flame over circle)

CorrosiveCorrosive (Symbol: Corrosion)

ToxicAcute toxicity (Symbol: Skull and crossbones)

Environmentally damagingHazardous to the environment (Symbol: Dead tree and fish)

You’ll see that the old ‘harmful/irritant’ symbol is missing. This has been replaced by the exclamation mark pictogram:

Health hazard/Hazardous to the ozone layer (Symbol: Exclamation mark)

A couple of new pictograms have also been introduced:

Health hazardSerious health hazard (Symbol: health hazard)

Compressed gasGas under pressure (Symbol: Gas cylinder)

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