Implementation of the GHS, preventing chemical accidents, and strengthening occupational safety and health: A joint project from ILO and UNITAR

The ILO and UNITAR have worked collaboratively for many years, notably under the banner of the IOMC (Inter-Organization Programme for the Sound Management of Chemicals). In an effort to bring the two organisations closer together, work more collaboratively and support more beneficiaries around the world, joint and complementary activities are proposed, allowing both ILO and UNITAR to leverage their key competencies in the areas of GHS, preventing chemical accidents, and strengthening occupational safety and health (OSH)

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is an internationally agreed-upon standard managed by the United Nations for classification and labelling of chemicals. It is an essential instrument to ensure the safety of humans and of the environment with regard to chemicals. While some countries have implemented the GHS, a majority of countries (including a significant number of developing countries, including countries with economies in transition with growing chemicals industries and levels of uses) have yet to do so. GHS is an essential tool for safe chemicals management and preventing industrial accidents, as well as improving occupational safety and health for workers throughout a variety of sectors.

While the GHS is a key component under SAICM and the proposed Beyond 2020 framework, it both contributes to and benefits from work in other areas. It is integrally linked to OSH and thus would support chemical accident prevention and preparedness, and would also benefit from implementation of key provisions in relevant ILO Conventions related to chemicals management (e.g. C170 and C174). It is for these reasons that a project that starts with the GHS but also results in enhanced OSH and accident prevention as well as more effective practical implementation of ILO Conventions is being proposed. As such, ILO and UNITAR see a key opportunity to work collaboratively on these topics in 2021 and beyond.

The project will be implemented in the framework of the Safety + Health for All Flagship Programme and includes a global component as well as one targeted for the national level in Lebanon, including efforts to strengthen OSH and chemical safety following the Beirut explosion of August 2020. The objectives are:

Objective 1. Global level - Occupational safety and health in regards to chemicals management enhanced and prevention of major industrial accidents promoted

Objective 2. National level (Lebanon) - Regulatory framework supported and stakeholder capacity enhanced on OSH, chemical safety and the prevention of major industrial accidents