CLP Labelling – Are empty pictograms allowed on the label?
The CLP legislation itself does not directly address this question.
There is the potential for five pictograms on a label for a substance or mixture. Due to the apparent lack of robust colour printers for labelling, current thoughts of CLP and GHS labelling are centred around pre-printed labels containing empty diamonds, ready to take black symbols and text.
In this scenario, will it be OK to have empty diamonds? Formpak has been in touch with the HSE about this. The summary is, it’s not prohibited, but is not the preferred method. The question and response is reproduced below, in full:
In the industry in which we work, up to 5 pictograms are possible. There are several thousand products and the ability to produce correct labels dynamically is required.
This could be done by obtaining labels pre-printed with 5 red diamonds, which can take the black pictogram image if required.
My question is this: Will it be allowed to have empty red diamonds on a label? Or should an empty red diamond contain a note, e.g. No Symbol, to make it clear? Or will empty diamonds not be allowed?
HSE CLP Helpdesk response
Thank you for your recent enquiry to HSE’s Infoline. As it relates to the requirements of the European CLP Regulation, your enquiry has been passed to the UK CLP Helpdesk for reply.
The CLP Regulation is silent on the use of blank hazard diamonds, or ‘blacked out’ diamonds. Arguably this reflects the expectation that modern label printing systems should be able to deliver just what is required, without the need for surplus or blacked out label elements. Presently, therefore, we may have a gap between what many label systems commonly in use can deliver, and the legal and public expectation. Blanking out unnecessary information may be one solution and would certainly offer a shorter term fix, but if not well implemented the outcome could be unsightly and misleading. In the longer term, it would seem better to adopt a solution that produces appropriate customised labels at a comparable cost to those currently in use. We think the creativity within industry is such that in due course a cost effective solution will be found to bridge the gap – indeed, we understand that developments are ongoing and the gap may be narrowing already. The issue, therefore, is how to manage the interim position.
There is the possibility of further guidance from ECHA on this issue in the near future, in the form of a new FAQ, if a reasonable approach can be agreed across member states.
Although, in practice, both ECHA and the European Commission are waiting for industry to find a creative and cost effective solution. So what is the best way forward now? One approach, would be for regulators to adopt the position that there can be no blank or unused label elements. This allows no flexibility for suppliers, but presses the case for the development of creative, cost effective solutions. On the other hand, an alternative approach would be for regulators to allow blank or blacked out pictograms, promoting what is often the status quo, but leaving little incentive to develop a longer term solution.
What is HSE’s view?
The overriding need is to have clear label information, but we are pragmatic. HSE inspectors are unlikely to take strong enforcement action where surplus pictogram borders have been blacked out, particularly if this has been done in a way that avoids confusion and does not detract from the required label information. However, this approach may not be satisfactory in the longer term, and we also want to encourage industry to develop new, cost-effective approaches.
In the interim, we are concerned that a blank diamond, could be seen by some as a CLP pictogram, and, if so, one for which there is no specified meaning under CLP. They are therefore open to interpretation – do they mean something? was there some sort of printing fault? etc. Hence our recommendation that unused diamonds (including their borders) are blanked out/obscured, so as to minimise the possibility of any misunderstanding.
We are sorry we cannot provide a more definitive answer at this time but, nevertheless, we hope this is helpful.