By Lydia Kukua Asamoah/Judith Amoateng, GNA
Accra, Jan. 30, GNA - The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday began stakeholder discussions on designing a roadmap to implement the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) on the classification and labelling of chemicals in Ghana, expected to protect the people and the environment.
The GHS, introduced by the United Nations in 1992 and adopted in 2002, is a system for harmonising hazard classification criteria and chemical hazard communication elements worldwide.
Stakeholders at a two-day introductory workshop in Accra noted that the GHS would ensure labelling and classification of chemicals were synchronised and harmonised worldwide.
This would help protect people and the environment from harmful chemicals like pesticides as symbols and labels would better communicate to the people to avoid danger.
It would also promote global trading and protect the health, agriculture, roads and industry sectors.
The success of the implementation would reduce the need for testing and evaluation against multiple classification systems as well as promote government’s flagship programmes, particularly the Planting for Food and Jobs and the One District One Factory.
Countries were mandated to voluntarily adopt the GHS by 2008 but, so far, only 65 out of the about 195 UN countries, mostly in Europe and the Americas, have adopted it as a means of regulating their chemical sectors.
Zambia is the only country in Africa that has adopted the GHS and integrated it into the laws that regulate her chemical sector.
To speed up adoption by countries in sub-saharan Africa, the German Government, the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) have selected Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire as pilot countries to start preparation to adopt the GHS.
Madam Patricia Appiagyei, the Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, at the opening of the workshop, said although Ghana already had regulatory systems in place for chemical classification and hazard communication, which may be similar in content and approach, their differences were significant enough to require multiple classifications, labels and safety data sheets for the same product.
She said that had led to inconsistent protection for those potentially exposed to the chemicals and end-users in general.
Madam Appiagyei said through the implementation of the GHS there would be a safer work environment and improved relations with employees as well as the facilitation of electronic transmission systems with international scope in the company setups.
There would also be expanded use of training programmes on health and safety, reduced costs due to fewer accidents and illnesses and improved corporate image and credibility.
Workers and the general public would also enjoy improved safety through consistent and simplified communications on chemical hazards and practices to follow for safe handling and use, she said.
Madam Appiagyei said the implementation of the GHS in Ghana would contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals on sustainable chemistry, which offers a broad spectrum of products and services essential to daily living that are safe, sustainable and environmentally sound.
She, therefore, commended the German Government, the ICCA and the UNITAR for the financial and technical support to Ghana and organising the workshop to kick-start the implementation of the GHS.
She said government would continue to provide the necessary support to national institutions to ensure the proper management and utilisation of chemicals of all forms in order to protect the public, particularly the vulnerable population, from their adverse impacts.
Mr John Pwamang, the Acting Executive Director of EPA, said it was expected that stakeholders would agree on the modalities on how Ghana would incorporate GHS into the system with the help of regulatory bodies like the Ghana Standards Authority and the Food and Drugs Authority.
Dr Sam Adu-Kumi, the Director of Chemicals Control and Management Centre of the EPA, said Ghana, like many other countries, had technical and logistical challenges, which delayed the implementation of GHS.
He was, therefore, thankful to the German Government, the UNITAR and ICCA for coming in to support Ghana to implement the GHS.
"At least from this workshop if we are able to put in place a strategy, it will mean that we have a roadmap and a plan and therefore we could go in for the funding from government and other sources to roll out the programme," he said.
Participants at the workshop include personnel from the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority, the Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Standards Authority.