Minister of the Environment, Denis Kellman (left) speaking with the Director of the Environmental Protection Department, Jeffrey Headley, at the Training Workshop for the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) Project, launched at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Management of chemicals to ensure maximum benefits and minimal consequences will be the driving theme of the Environmental Protection Department’s (EPD) Training Workshop for the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).?? It began today at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Minister of the Environment, Water Resource Management and Drainage, Denis Kellman, said that the three-day workshop would prove useful in the strengthening of Barbados’ chemicals management capacity and highlighted some of the efforts being made worldwide, and at home, to ensure public safety.

"So important is the issue of chemicals management that the international community has developed a policy framework for action on chemical hazards. This policy framework, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), supports achievement of a central goal that was agreed at the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.?? This goal is to ensure that by 2020 chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health," he said.

The Environment Minister pointed out that in 2008, the Environmental Protection Department, with the assistance of UNITAR [the United Nations Institute for Training and Research], undertook a project entitled, Updating a National Chemicals Management Profile, Developing a SAICM Capacity Assessment and Holding of a National SAICM Priority Setting Workshop in Barbados.??

???The project identified a number of shortcomings in the existing mechanisms for chemicals management.?? Some of the areas earmarked for urgent action by stakeholders who participated in that project were [the] safe handling, use, storage, and transportation of pesticides…chemical safety in the workplace and training.?? The project also identified a number of actions that could be taken to overcome these shortcomings.?? One such action is the proposed implementation of the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).?? This is what brings us here today," Mr. Kellman said.

UNITAR representative, Mehdia Sirari, spoke about ??the organisation’s partnership with the Government of Barbados, not only for the workshop, but in other projects relevant to increased capacity, locally and regionally.?? Whilst the concepts of GHS and international chemicals management (SAICM) are not foreign to Barbados, Ms. Sirari emphasised that there was a need to see the connection between these systems and development.

"Chemicals are essential and pervasive in modern societies and economies, but can pose risks if not soundly managed.?? A strategic approach to international chemicals management, SAICM, is a policy framework adopted by the international community in February 2006, to promote chemical safety…The ultimate goal of the GHS is to ensure that information on chemical hazards is made available to workers and consumers via labels and safety data sheets, in harmonised and comprehensive formats to ensure chemical safety.?? GHS is also important economically, in that it facilitates trade in chemicals, where the hazard has been properly assessed and identified on an international basis."

Ms. Sirari pledged UNITAR’s continued dedication to furthering the cause and purpose of GHS within the Caribbean and referred to the organisation’s proposal for a "project on evaluating and strengthening national and sub-regional capacity for the implementation of GHS and supporting SAICM implementation in the Caribbean".?? She also highlighted the relevance of the systems on a global scale.

"At a broader level, the GHS is a component of sound chemicals management highly relevant to the Millennium Development Goals, endorsed by the 2002 World Summit for Sustainable Development, in that improved chemicals management leads to safety of the human population and protection of the environment," she said.

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