Korea has taken a major step toward achieving full compliance with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of chemicals by identifying 151 substances as 'hazardous' for consultation. The Ministry of the Environment (MoE) in Korea also is placing more responsibilities on manufacturers and importers by introducing new rules regarding updating and content of material safety data sheets (MSDS). The MoE has given companies just ten days to comment on the proposed classifications before these classifications are issued in final, or until December 17, 2010.
The MoE has provided a list of the substances together with each proposed classification on its website that includes a description of the methodology used and a list of the evidence for each proposed classification along with a way to provide feedback via e-mail to the MoE. Please note, however, that the website is in Korean and an English translation is not currently available. The website is located at the following address: http://ncis.nier.go.kr/ghs/.
Reportedly, the MoE has been preparing for GHS implementation since 2004. The Regulation to implement GHS in Korea will become law from July 1, 2011, for substances and July 1, 2013, for mixtures.
This new consultation list follows the publication of 31 substances and proposed classifications that were published in October 2010, which also had a brief consultation period. The MoE has announced its plans to issue the substance classifications in final by May 2011.
At the recent ChemCon Americas 2010 conference in Philadelphia this past November, however, an expert warned companies to be aware that any substances designated as toxic since July 1, 2008, should consider applying the new Classification and Labeling rules immediately.
The Ministry of Labour (MoL) has been implementing GHS in parallel to address workplace safety via an amendment of the Industrial Safety and Health Act (ISHA). The compliance deadlines under this scheme are June 30, 2010, for substances and June 30, 2013, for mixtures.
The MoL issued a public notice in 2009 in which it harmonized most of the physical and health hazard GHS 'building blocks' in its scheme with those of the MoE's regulation to allow continuity in the information available to industry. The Korean Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) reportedly intends to publish a full list of reference substance GHS classifications this year, however, given the timeframe, we believe this to be unlikely.
Companies should also be aware that an amendment of the ISHA is planned in January 2011 and due to take effect in July 2011. This amendment will place a new responsibility on manufacturers and importers -- rather than users -- to supply GHS-compliant MSDSs. There will also be an obligation to keep MSDSs fully reviewed and updated.