Classification and labelling of chemicals

Hazard symbol "Dangerous for the enviroment"Click to enlarge
Hazardous chemicals are labelled with pictograms. Hazard pictogram Hazardous to the aquatic envir.
Source: UNECE / GHS

What is the purpose of classification and labelling of chemicals? What exactly is "classification" and "labelling"? What are the governing laws and where can they be looked up?

Chemicals play a key role in our everyday lives, both in the private and workplace realm. However, the benefit associated with the use of chemicals and chemical products often comes along with harmful effects on man and the environment. Detecting harmful properties and labelling products with respective hazard pictograms serves to protect man and the environment against the negative impacts of chemicals.

Classification

The purpose of classification is to determine the hazards posed by chemicals. Hazard assessment requires the establishment of criteria and limit values. These criteria and limit values help to determine hazardous physical-chemical properties as well as health and environmental hazards.

Labelling

Labelling makes known hazards visible. Users can more quickly recognise any hazards and act accordingly when handling chemicals. Labelling is basically the result of classification. There are specific standardised labels for every hazard which has been established (e.g. hazard pictograms, safety information).