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Guidance on the application of Globally Harmonized System (GHS) criteria to petroleum substances

Good practice summary

The Guidance on the application of Globally Harmonized System (GHS) criteria to petroleum substances was developed by IPIECA to facilitate appropriate classification and labelling of petroleum substances within the Unknown or Variable Composition, Complex Reaction Products or Biological Materials (UVCB) group. It was developed with input from experienced technical experts in petroleum substance toxicology and addresses crude oil and petroleum substances produced from oil and gas operations. The guidance includes a Technical Support Document where the principles of the guidance are explained using relevant scientific literature.

IPIECA has developed this guidance through close consultation with the UN Sub-Committee of Experts on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (Sub-Committee or UNSCEGHS). Efforts on this guidance commenced at the thirteenth session of the Sub-Committee where IPIECA presented a work plan which was endorsed by the Sub-Committee. At the fourteenth session of the Sub-Committee, IPIECA listed issues that could result in divergent classification of petroleum substances. These issues have been informally discussed at the fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth sessions of the Sub-Committee. At its eighteenth session, the Sub-Committee endorsed the concept of sector-specific guidance by creating a webpage on the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) website which links to third-party sector-specific guidance. As the author, IPIECA remains responsible for the contents and maintenance of this guidance.

IPIECA believes that utilization of the guidance will result in global harmonization of hazard classification of petroleum substances broadly traded in international commerce. Additional benefits of the guidance are:

(a) Application of the “grouping” or “category” concept, resulting in a full use of available data thereby minimizing the need for animal testing;
(b) Transparent use of GHS principles for the classification of complex, multi constituent substances;
(c) Consistent and reliable classification of petroleum substances, resulting in appropriate hazard communication aiming to reduce the risks arising from the storage and handling of petroleum substances; and
(d) Consistent classification reduces costs for industry and countries.

IPIECA will periodically revise this guidance to ensure the guidance reflects current research and scientific developments; is consistent with updated versions of the GHS; and incorporates future comments by competent authorities. As appropriate, IPIECA will update the UNSCEGHS on changes to the guidance.

IPIECA encourages countries and industry to fully utilize this guidance in the application of the GHS criteria to petroleum substances. By providing relevant sector-specific guidance, the hazard classification of petroleum substances should be globally consistent regardless of regional differences in the implementation of GHS or classification of individual petroleum substance constituents.

Comments on this guidance are welcome and should be sent to Rob Cox of IPIECA at IPIECA will post future comments received on the guidance and IPIECA responses to those comments on this webpage.