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What is classification?

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‘Classification’ of a chemical is a scientific assessment of whether it can cause harm – for example whether it has the potential to cause cancer, explode, irritate the eyes, etc.

Chemicals are classified so that people using them – either in industry or as consumers – can understand any hazardous effects they could have on human health or the environment and to protect against that harm.

Classification is about identifying intrinsic hazards, not controlling risks. It’s about getting the information needed for decisions about risk control to be made, so that chemicals can be produced, transported, used and disposed of safely.

Classification is fundamental to safe chemical management. It is vital that classification is based on accurate, robust and adequate data/information.

What is hazard?

The potential for something to cause harm is known as ‘hazard’. The intrinsic hazard of a chemical is its capacity to cause harm. All sorts of chemicals that surround us in daily life are hazardous but most of them can be used safely – being able to cause harm doesn’t mean something will cause harm.

What is risk?

Risk is the chance, high or low, of somebody or the environment being harmed by the hazard, and how serious that harm could be.

Remember! Classification must be carried out regardless of the tonnage, volume or amount of the chemical being supplied.

Updated: 2013-07-25