Japan Uppates GHS Classification Standard and Guidance to Support Self-Classification Efforts by the Industry

Posted on: January 8, 2014

By Yuko Asano

Japan’s hazard classification standard and classification guidance documents have been updated; they are now both aligned with the United Nations (UN) 4th revised edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), also known as the UN Purple Book.  In August 2013, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry published GHS Classification Guidance for Enterprises 2013 Revised Edition, and following behind, a revision to the Japanese Industrial Standard (JIS) Z 7252 Classification of Chemicals based on the GHS is expected to be released in early 2014.

Published in 2009, the current JIS Z 7252 is based on the UN 2nd revised edition of the Purple Book; however, the physical hazard classification section is absent.  And, the GHS Classification Guidance for Enterprises 2010 Revised Edition incorporated the UN 3rd revised edition of the Purple Book.

The task of bringing the GHS classification guidance and the JIS up to date has become urgent as the 2012 amendment to the Ordinance of Industrial Safety and Health law now requires chemical suppliers to classify every substance and prepare a label and/or safety data sheet (SDS) when the substance is classified as hazardous, although the requirement remains on a voluntary basis rather than mandatory.

So far in Japan, SDSs and labels are only required for approximately 1,500 substances regulated by Japan’s Industrial Safety and Health Law, Poisonous and Deleterious Substances Control Law, and the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) Law.  The Inter-Ministerial Committee for GHS, was tasked with classifying each of the regulated substances according to the GHS and publishing the results, while the primary efforts by chemical manufacturers and suppliers have focused on the preparation of SDSs and labels for the regulated substances in compliance with the GHS using these published classification results.

As the new requirement under Japan’s Industrial Safety and Health Law is in place, the GHS Classification Guidance is aimed to help chemical manufacturers and suppliers carry out hazard classification on their own.  The 275-page document not only provides the GHS classification criteria to follow, focusing mainly on classification of mixtures, but also offers a list of information sources from which the manufacturers and suppliers can collect physical and chemical data and hazard information needed for classification.  In addition, the guidance also gives certain sources priorities specific to the endpoint being considered.  For example, for the carcinogenicity endpoint, the guidance advises to give weight to IARC group classifications and EU carcinogenic categories and to use the classifications from the Japan Society for Occupational Health, US-EPA, US-NTP, ACGIH or the German DFG as a secondary source.

Overall, the content of the guidance is hands-on and practical in nature and reflects the country’s existing regulatory framework and point of view, while the JIS Z 7252 comprises, in essence, the direct translations of the UN Purple Book.  One particular example is the reference to the hazard classifications under the country’s Fire Service Act.  The guidance provides a table to demonstrate how each of six hazard classifications can be translated to its corresponding GHS physical hazard endpoint.

GHS Classification Guidance for Government Edition was also updated in 2013 in accordance with the UN 4th Revised edition of the Purple Book.  This guidance is intended as a reference for the members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee involved in the government’s classification project in order to help them produce consistent classification results.

The revision to Japan’s classification standard, JIS Z 7252, has reportedly been completed.  Although it will be a few more months before it is published as a national standard, JIS Z 7252 requires a more rigorous review process.  No specific publication date has been announced; however, the release is expected before the end of Japan’s fiscal year which is March 31, 2014.

The 2013 Revised Edition of Japan GHS Classification Guidance, for both government and enterprise are available at:


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