How does classification work?
Who should carry out classification?
Classification is the responsibility of chemical suppliers – e.g. manufacturers, importers, downstream users, and possibly distributors.
Their conclusions are not approved or vetted by government authorities – although they might be scrutinised if there should be a problem or if particular concerns are raised.
Supply and placing on the market
Supply means making a substance or preparation/mixture available to another person and includes importing a substance or preparation/mixture into Great Britain. So a ‘supplier’ is a person who does this (i.e. manufacturer, importer, distributor, retailer and so on).
You may also see the term ‘placing on the market’. This is much the same as supply and means ‘supplying or making available, whether in return for payment or free of charge, to a third party’. Import into the European Union market is deemed to be placing on the market.
Remember! Classification must be carried out regardless of the tonnage, volume or amount of the chemical being supplied.
The basic classification requirement is for chemical suppliers to determine whether the chemicals they supply are ‘hazardous’ according to an internationally-agreed set of rules (known as ‘criteria’) to identify what harm a chemical might cause.
There are criteria for:
- physical hazards (e.g. explosivity. corrosivity. etc);
- health hazards (e.g. potential to cause cancer in humans, to irritate the skin or eyes, etc); and
- environmental hazards (e.g. harmful to the aquatic environment, etc).
When classifying a chemical, the supplier must consider:
- what sort of harm a chemical might cause – the hazards,
- how certain it is that the chemical could actually have this effect,
- how serious the effect might be, and
- how potent the chemical is.
Classification of a mixture is generally based on what is known of the constituent substances or similar products.
Gathering data, testing and scientific studies
Generally, the CLP Regulation does NOT require new studies be conducted for the purposes of classification.
Instead, suppliers have to obtain and evaluate all the ‘available’ and ‘relevant’ information to classify their substances and mixtures.
In practice this means that many mixtures can be classified on the basis of publicly available data, for example that published in the annexes of the CLP Regulation itself, or in a new database being made available by the European Chemicals Agency.
Nevertheless, some suppliers may choose to generate new information to improve their mixture classifications.
The exception is physical hazards – where no data is available, suppliers are required to generate test data for these hazard classes (such a test will not however involve the use of vertebrate animals).
As a general rule if the chemical is not hazardous there may be nothing more you need to do. The exceptions to this include several special cases where some mixtures that are not hazardous still need additional warning information, and/or for a ‘safety data sheet’ to be provided to industrial and professional users (and available for purchasing consumers on request).
Detailed guidance on how to apply the agreed classification criteria is provided by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
Guidance on the application of the CLP criteria