At ChemCon Europe 2016, the global platform bringing experts representing companies, authorities and international organisations from over 25 countries, Deidré Penfold, Executive Director of Chemical and Allied Industries' Association (CAIA) addressed the congress on 17 March 2016 on ‘Practical implementation of GHS and other issues in Africa – including country specific legislation in South Africa.
CAIA is a partner of the United Nations Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management initiative.
The only representative from Africa, Penfold covered the current situation in South Africa and the steps taken by SADC (Southern African Development Community), through its Technical Regulations Liaison Committee (SADCTRLC), to develop a harmonised regional GHS standard, based on the South African SANS 10234, upon which the regional GHS technical regulations will be based. The Committee identified the UN GHS framework as a suitable basis on which to base regional regulation of trade in chemicals in SADC.
“Certain chemicals can pose a variety of hazards, depending on their nature, which includes their physical form and persistence, how and where they are used and the quantities that are dealt with. The risks that persons and the environment face during the handling of chemicals are similarly dependent on these factors. However, the risks associated with handling chemicals goes beyond these considerations into the arenas of exposure: routes, quantities and periods,” says Penfold.
“Due to these risks, CAIA believes that separate mandates are required to be implemented by separate authorities so that the necessary attention can be placed throughout the ‘exposure value chain’, where both the environment and people’s health are considered as value propositions when assessing the need for chemicals management.”
The South African Constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and provides individual constitutional mandates to three spheres of government: national, provincial and local (or district/municipal level). Section 24 of the same Constitution declares that everyone has the right to:
- an environment which is not harmful to their health or well-being
- have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and other measures that:
- prevent pollution and ecological degradation
- promote conservation
- secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources, while promoting justifiable economic and social development
Section 24 therefore places a duty on all spheres of government to take reasonable steps, including making laws, preventing pollution, promoting conservation and ensuring sustainable development.
Multiple legislations creates strain
“With more than 20 Acts alone required to cover these respective mandates, the number of subordinate pieces of legislation that are required can be imagined to be substantial – even more reason to maintain the separate mandates to facilitate focused attention to the risks that may be posed to persons and the environment.
“However, challenges are being experienced in terms of skills development, capacity and resources across the public and private sectors of South Africa. These challenges not only affect the day-to-day business of South African companies but also affect the public sector, largely in terms of compliance monitoring and enforcement, implementation of existing legislation, the development of new legislation and both intra- and inter-departmental coordination.
“CAIA therefore believes that the newly proposed Chemicals Management Bill, which seeks to fill broad gaps that are perceived to exist in chemicals management in South Africa, is not appropriately justified given the circumstances. Efforts should rather be placed on the effective and efficient implementation of existing legislation, compliance monitoring and enforcement and coordination.
“New legislation will not only result in further legislation attempting to be implemented by an already strained authority and authorities but will also place unjustified regulatory burdens on an already stressed economy. Another important element that the Department of Environmental Affairs should focus on is local research rather than mostly relying on extrapolations from existing studies around the world. Although this is supported from an overall background perspective, the resources currently available to South Africa demand that perceived concerns are justified and substantiated by appropriate research prior to the development of a priority action plan to address these perceived challenges.”
Penfold then went on to describe the Responsible Care® Initiative, carried out by CAIA in South Africa and the current South African GHS Legislation.
GHS implementation in South Africa, SADC Countries and other African Countries
The SADC (Southern African Development Community) is a regional organisation consisting of 14 Member Countries, namely:
- Congo (DR)
- South Africa
*The Seychelles is still in the process of ratifying the SADC Treaty.
SADC Countries that agreed to implement the SADC GHS Policy by 2020, but with no implementation plans, include:
The following SADC countries agreed with SADC’s intention to implement GHS by 2020 at the latest, as communicated to UN SCE GHS in 2013:
- Botswana - has mandated itself to have completed and started the implementation of the regulatory law by August 2017, three years before the agreed deadline.
- DRC - a GHS Planning and Inception Workshop was held in January 2014, but the development of a National GHS implementation strategy is still on-going.
- Madagascar - held its National Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Planning and Inception Workshop from 22 to 23 May 2012 with the participation of UNITAR, which will include supporting GHS capacity building.
- Mauritius was the first country to publish an act, the Dangerous Chemicals Control Act, for the implementation of GHS in 2004, but it is still based on the original GHS version of 2003. Although Mauritius agreed with SADC´s intention to implement GHS by 2020, no deadlines for the implementation of the requirements for substances or mixtures defined.
- Zambia - a Zambian Standard for GHS (GHS STANDARD: ZS 708 – Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) was developed, which is based on UN GHS Rev 1. Preparations are under way to update this Standard in accordance with GHS Rev 3.
Other African countries, with the exception of Nigeria, have not yet implemented the GHS and are still busy with capacity building or action plan developments. Nigeria has being working since April 2006 on the development of a harmonised Hazardous Chemicals Management Bill. The draft Act was subject to a sectoral review process for multi-stakeholder input during the first quarter of 2007. Even though this process lead to the development of a strategic plan for national GHS implementation in 2008, no further current information is available.
South Africa leading the way
Legislative processes are slow and bureaucratic. It would be very difficult to set a common implementation schedule for the GHS in SADC for all countries. It is more likely that SADC countries will domesticate the SADC GHS at differing paces, depending on their technical and financial capacity to regulate.
However, in order to achieve uniformity, the year 2020 is targeted for the region to achieve full implementation. Full uptake of the new regulations will depend on the speed at which stakeholders understand and are able to use the new regulations. Therefore, educating employees, consumers, emergency responders on the updated chemical and product classifications and related pictograms, signal words, hazard statements and precautionary measures will present a significant training challenge.
Finally, when considering the above and progress made to date, it can be concluded that South Africa is leading the implementation of GHS in Africa, where other SADC countries have committed to the implementation of GHS by 2020. The implementation of GHS, or its intention to do so by other African countries, is yet to be determined.