Barbados is taking steps to improve the way it handles harmful chemicals.

This was stated by Environmental Technical Officer at the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Philip Pile, who said the country needed to improve the mechanism of protecting human health and the environment from the potential negative impact of chemicals.

In an effort to address this, Mr. Pile said Barbados was undertaking a project to establish nationwide standardisation through the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

To facilitate the process of implementation, the EPD is being assisted by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).

"GHS is a system to determine the type of hazard a chemical will cause, and communicate that hazard to the people using it," he noted. He explained that "armed with greater awareness of the hazards, we could expect to see safer use of chemicals in the workplace and in the home, and a greater demonstration of environmental stewardship when disposing chemicals".

He added that as a part of the project, Barbados would develop a draft National GHS Implementation Strategy which would outline the goals, activities and suggested implementation mechanisms for the actions needed to achieve its effectiveness in the GHS target areas.

Mr. Pile pointed out that agriculture, transport, industrial workplaces and consumer products were the key areas being focused on, as they were the ones where people were more likely to come into contact with chemicals.

Initial surveys conducted by the EPD showed that those who dealt with chemicals had misconceptions about the meaning of some of the GHS hazard communication elements.

"Generally, respondents from all the sectors were not using the labels effectively, and were relying on their own knowledge and experience to determine how they should handle chemicals," the Environmental Technical Officer said.

He suggested that pictograms such as the Exclamation Mark, Gas Cylinder, Flame Over Circle and Health Hazard were largely misinterpreted.

Mr. Pile also noted that the survey highlighted a need for training in the use of GHS Safety Data Sheets in industrial workplaces and the agricultural sector, as well as increased public education programmes for consumers.

He promised that the EPD would endeavour to develop such programmes.

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