Chemicals are used in virtually all work activities, thus presenting certain chemical risks in a large number of workplaces all over the world. Many thousands of chemicals are used in substantial quantities, and many new chemicals are also introduced into the market each year. It is therefore an urgent task to establish a systematic approach to safety in the use of chemicals at work.
An effective control of chemical risks at the workplace requires an efficient flow of information from the manufacturers or importers to the users of chemicals on potential hazards and on the safety precautions to be taken. This flow of information should be followed by daily action by employers to ensure that the necessary measures are taken to protect workers, and consequently the public and the environment.
In accordance with the decision taken by the Governing Body of the ILO at its 250th Session (May-June 1991), a meeting of experts was convened in Geneva from 24 March to I April 1992 to draw up a code of practice on safety in the use of chemicals at work. The meeting was composed of seven experts appointed following consultations with governments, seven following consultations with the Employers' group and seven following consultations with the Workers' group of the Governing Body.
After examining and finalising the text, based on a draft prepared by the Office, the experts adopted this code of practice. The code provides practical guidance on the implementation of the provisions of the Chemicals Convention, 1990 (No. 170). and Recommendation, 1990 (No. 177), and is not intended to discourage competent authorities from adopting higher standards.
The practical recommendations of this code of practice are intended for the use of all those who have a responsibility for safety in the use of chemicals. The code is not intended to replace national laws, regulations or accepted standards. Its object is to provide guidance to those who may be engaged in the framing of provisions relating to the use of chemicals at work such as competent authorities, the management of companies where chemicals are supplied or used, and emergency services. The code should also offer guidelines to suppliers, employers' and workers' organisations.
Local circumstances and the availability of financial and technical resources will determine the speed and extent of implementation. The provisions of this code should also be read in the context of the conditions in the country proposing to use the information. With this in mind, the needs of developing countries have been taken into consideration.
The text of the code was approved for publication by the Governing Body of the ILO at its 253rd Session (May-June 1992).