The Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare (MHLW) has discussed a raft of proposals to encourage more transparent exchange of mandatory and voluntary chemical hazard information.
Materials released by the ministry ahead of a meeting today point out that substances with no legal requirement for safety data sheets (SDSs) were responsible for as many as half of all accidents involving acute toxicity from chemical exposure.
The Industrial Safety and Health Act (ISHA) is the main law implementing the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classification and labelling of chemicals in Japan. This obliges companies to provide SDSs and labels for 673 substances and their mixtures up to certain thresholds.
Although the ISHA also encourages companies to provide SDSs for other chemicals that might pose physical or health hazards, this is not a legal requirement. The ministry reports that only 60–70% of businesses regularly share hazard documents when not legally obliged to.
The MHLW acknowledges that certain chemicals with potential long-term adverse health effects currently have no mandatory hazard warning requirements, including approximately 200 category 2B carcinogens, which are substances considered to be ”possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc).
Proposals to expand the legal requirements for SDSs and labelling of chemicals were limited to substances involved in accidents from adverse reactions of improperly labelled mixtures.
However, the MHLW is instead considering steps to promote a culture of voluntary SDS circulation among businesses in Japan, in particular among small and medium sized enterprises with fewer human resources available to manage compliance issues.
The ministry has already developed model SDS documentation and labels for companies to use, which cover 3,014 substances.
It now plans to expand on these resources to cover more substances, with priority given to chemicals imported or produced in Japan in large quantities.
Other suggested measures include providing a budget for training and consultancy services to ensure that smaller businesses are meeting their compliance requirements.
Also, SDSs and labels for transfers of consumer products, which are generally not required, might become necessary when those products are purchased in business-to-business transactions.
It is also considering technology-based solutions to enable sharing of SDS documents online with QR-coded labels.
22 October 2019
Chemical Watch, 28 May 2020