Chemicals Coffee Time Monthly, January 2023
Welcome to the compilation from the January 2023 issues of Chemicals Coffee Time.
You may remember that the EU’s proposals for CLP labelling were announced in late December, just in time to be forgotten over the Christmas period, but as we’ve gone into the requirements in detail, we’ve realised that they are unworkable (and that’s being polite!).
Here are some thoughts from our lovely readers and my colleague Alison and myself.
Summary of proposals
Our friends at Hibiscus, https://www.hibiscus-plc.co.uk/, have made a very good summary of the new label proposals, published in Chemical Industry Journal https://www.chemicalindustryjournal.co.uk/clp-ec-p…
There are two main aspects to the proposals:
- the new font sizes and spacing between lines of text
- bringing in a digital label for CLP purposes
Important reminder – as usual, do NOT implement any of these proposed EU-CLP changes yet, we need to wait and see if/ when they’re actually brought into law.
Font sizes and line spacing
The proposed new minimum font size for labels are:
- Packages not exceeding 3L – Minimum font = 8pt
- Packages Greater than 3L but not exceeding 50L – Minimum font = 12pt
- Packages Greater than 50L but not exceeding 500L – Minimum font = 16pt
- Packages Greater than 500L – Minimum font = 20pt
The spacing between lines of text must be equal to, or above, 120% of the font size (e.g. for 20pt, line spacing must be 24pt).
The impact of the new font size and line spacing proposals, which increase along with the size of the label, will be to ensure that all of the CLP information can’t be shown on labels where space is tight, or the size can’t physically be increased (e.g. an IBC with a dual Transport/CLP label; or a consumer label with limited flat surface area).
Alison has mocked up an A4 label for use on an IBC for dual TDG and CLP, with only 3 Hazard Statements, H225, H319 and H336 and although she can fit on the text at 20 points, there’s no room for the two pictograms, see example A4 label TDG and CLP new font sizes without pictograms.jpg . (The blue part of the label is the space needed for TDG information).
The EC’s take on this is that we should all move to fold-out labels. My own thoughts on fold out labels are as follows:
- nobody reads the small print
- anything not on the surface of the label is automatically small print
- how will people know that it’s a fold out label? there’s supposed to be a symbol, an arrow, indicating that it’s a pull-out label, but I got caught out recently with a pull-out label for multi-vitamins
- this is taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Chemical labels should be easy to read and on a single surface. Anything else is failing to take into account how the human brain works. As Einstein said, “Everything should be as simple as it can be, but not simpler”, and a flat label is the simplest and best way to communicate hazard information
- how will fold-out labels work for these situations:
- packages which contain liquids and which are used repeatedly (e.g. bleach bottles in the home; many chemical containers in industry) – will the labels have to be resistant to the contents of the package? will the paper or plastic strength have to undergo tests to ensure that it can “wear” properly when opened and closed repeatedly
- packages in situations where people have to wear gloves, whether that’s thin nitrile gloves in the lab, or big fat rubber gloves on plant
Not only are Fold Out labels the wrong answer for the problem, but the problem is being created by the legislation in the first place! Surely that is a bit of a clue that the proposal is a bad one.
We have been here before with label content size issues
The whole situation with minimum font sizes reminds me of the problems we had with label size when CLP was first introduced back in 2010. The original text stated that the size of the pictograms was to be 1/15th of the label as a whole, which meant that as the label size increased, the pictogram size increased as well, limiting space on the rest of the label for text (and the space situation was not helped by the fact that CLP pictograms are “squares set on point” and difficult to arrange efficiently on a rectangular label). The CLP requirement was a clear misinterpretation of the GHS text which the original version of CLP was (partly) based on, but it wasn’t resolved until the 2nd ATP to CLP, when the pictograms were set at minimum size.
This is a slightly different situation, because it’s text this time rather than the pictograms, and in theory people could increase their label size while keeping to the minimum font size. But why would they want to do that? A bigger label= more expense, more hassle, possibly even changing labelling equipment. This is the EU “solving a problem which doesn’t exist”.
A more cynical interpretation of the font size rules might be to make labels so complicated that people will start to use digital labels, so let’s take a look at that proposal next.
Digital label for CLP purposes
At the moment, the digital CLP label is only for “supplemental information”, but as usual with the EC, there are a number of catches:
- you need to provide a link to a free-to-access webpage for 10 years after the date of last supply (meaning you’ll have to make arrangements if you close your business
- given the fact that supplemental information often includes non-GHS/ non-CLP hazards like explosive dust hazards, or asphyxiant gases, do you really want to omit that from the label?
Some of the other issues with digital labelling are the same as for fold-out labels – how do you know it’s a digital label? But the key issues I have with it are:
- how is a digital label supposed to be read in an environment where there may be flammable hazards?
- what happens if internet access goes down?
- or there’s a power cut, either on site or on the server hosting the information?
- how might the information be accessed by the emergency services during an incident?
- how would a digital CLP label work with the proposed digital packaging label, when the current CLP proposal is that there would only be one digital label per package?
I don’t want you to think that I’m some kind of Luddite, and opposed to digital labelling. I think it’s a fantastic idea for tracking individual pieces of packaging, so you could see how many times it had been used, where and how it has been cleaned out, and what contents it has had during its lifetime. None of these issues are directly critical to the safe use of chemicals, although they could be important for making sure that incompatible materials aren’t put into a package which is being re-used.
But converting CLP labelling into a digital label is a step too far. There is a reason why physical labels are so widely used. They’re “always on”. They don’t rely on power to work. They don’t need internet access, or access to some kind of barcode reader tied into a database. As long as there’s enough light to read them, anyone literate can absorb the information. They can, and do, stay in place for years. They can survive being wetted and abraded (to a certain extent) and still provide that information. If, like me, you’ve found old chemical packages on site during inspections, you’ll know that they can last 20, 30 years or more, especially if they’re in a cupboard away from sunlight.
Digital labelling for CLP is dangerous, in my view.
Follow up from Hibiscus
Andrew Bedford of Hibiscus PLC. has pointed out something about these proposals on LinkedIn:
“Hi Janet, its clear they are wanting to go down the route of ‘booklet labels’ or ‘pull out labels’ as you put it. I for one would be very concerned that if they go down this route only the part of the label that is stuck to the container/drum/IBC, meets part 2 of a labels BS5609 requirements – as the rest of the label is simply not stuck to anything!
I appreciate there is certainly a benefit for including additional languages in the pull out label however if its to meet BS5609 the CLP info will have to be on the exterior label so its easily viewable and on the ‘back’ label, to ensure it remains stuck to the container.”
And a bit of a rant from Alison
Alison Potts is still very cross about the proposals and has been digging into the history of the proposals in the Caracal archives (never an easy task, as they have clearly never considered the benefits of an actual filing system). She’s back on her soap box with this little rant:
“I always enjoy when a consultation starts with a nice open minded question that indicates they aren’t pushing for a certain outcome. And the opening slide of the Caracal presentation in 2021 is a real winner:
‘If you would like to improve [a pictured example] label would you prefer – a) Less, but clearer information. Or b) As much information as possible which may be more difficult to read?’
Gee… I wonder why they concluded that the outcome should be bigger fonts, less information, and digital labels for anything that doesn’t fit!!!
If you’re interested in what the actual in depth surveys and behavioural studies (as per the impact analysis) revealed, then you’ll find:
- Consumers don’t know what the pictograms mean (Particularly the Gas Bottle, Exclamation Mark, and Health Hazard)
- The technical names of chemicals listed on labels are long, complicated and confusing!
- Some of the H and P phrases are repetitive and redundant
- There are understanding gaps between industrial, professional and consumer users
- There are understanding gaps between Northern European and Southern European users
None of these problems will be resolved by increasing the font size on the label. Making text bigger does not help someone to understand it. It’s the equivalent of just speaking louder to someone when you go abroad and don’t speak the native language.
Amusingly, I did find the Caracal consultation with the member states on the label format proposals. Here is the question they consulted on (in its entirety):
- Multilingual labels / Font sizec1) Should CLP allow multilingual fold-out labels in addition to the official language(s) of the MSs where the substance or mixture is placed on the market? Should CLP define some conditions such as setting up a maximum number of languages? Instead, should CLP introduce the possibility to provide the labelling information in additional languages digitally? c2) Do you think the introduction in CLP of provisions for minimum format requirements (e.g. font size, contrast) for labels is needed instead of the current CLP guidance?
Some member states thought that the formatting question related specifically to fold-out labels (because it was a two-part) question. And at no point did they actually propose a specified font size. The only response that even suggested a size suggested Size 9 potentially being a benefit.
The documents refer back to the origin of the pre-existing guidance (which states ‘readable’) and mention that when this was instated ~2015, it was discussed at length. I pulled the comments from that proposal. There are lots of familiar arguments about readability being subject to the packaging/context and font used.
I was also amused to see one current response ardently mention that the guidance is in place and it is up to the competent authorities to uphold it. (i.e. don’t write more legislation/guidance until you enforce what’s already in place).
Overall, I think my point is that the evidence doesn’t support the proposal. I may have my objections to some of the new classifications, but I do understand the basis for them and I can track them through initial consultation, draft, proposal and ultimately implementation. I can’t do that with the label reforms, and it really gets under my skin. The outcome seems rigged, and it doesn’t solve the problem – which ultimately is an education problem! If the end user doesn’t understand the label then that is a problem that needs to be addressed. Bigger text doesn’t fix anything.”
Ali is going to get a coffee now, and some fresh air. Because she’s annoyed. Again.
What I’d like is some help from the trade bodies on these label proposals. I presume that the proposals have taken many people by surprise because the specifics haven’t been consulted on at CARACAL or other regular discussion meetings, but the more we dig into them, the worse they seem to be, and if CBA, CIA, BCF, CEFIC etc don’t start publicising them to their members, we run the risk of ending up with completely impractical CLP labels, which is dangerous for the safety and health of all of us handling chemicals.
And what is DEFRA’s and HSE’s opinion on all of this? If these labelling changes are adopted in the EU, would they even consider them here in UK?
Please help stop these unworkable proposals
As I’ve mentioned several times in the weekly newsletter, please do comment on the EU’s labelling proposals here (scroll down the page to find the open consultation): https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/ha…
Currently open until March 23rd (they’ve been extending the deadline until the proposal has been translated into all EU official languages)
The Weekend Recipe
We recently had the excitement of a rare trip out to the supermarket (Aldi, since you asked), and I was even more excited to pick up 4 mangoes (85p each), as it means I can make a batch of mango chutney. Having been brought up in a household where we made our own jams and pickles (mainly from home-grown or neighbour-grown produce), it was a bit of a shock to realise that my dear husband will only eat chutney if it’s mango chutney. So I do like to make it for him, as I know it’s one of his favourite foods. And yes, I know mangoes are cheaper in the middle of the year, but it’s nice to be able to do a bit of preserving in winter when it’s cold and dark outside.
Quick mango chutney
- 2 large apples, peeled, cored and grated
- 3 mangoes, peeled, stones removed and chopped (top tip – see how to dice a mango here: https://www.mango.org/how-to-cut-a-mango/)
- 300 g granulated sugar
- 2 brown onions, chopped
- 125 ml vinegar
- 3 tablespoons grated root ginger
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 dessertspoon (or 2 teaspoons) mustard powder
- 1 dessertspoon (or 2 teaspoons) chilli powder or crushed chilli flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Place the apples, mangoes, sugar, onions, vinegar and ginger in a large stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for around 15 5o 20 minutes, until the fruit is tender. While that’s cooking, you can sterilise your jars and lids. Then add the rest of the ingredients – lemon juice, mustard powder, chilli flakes or chilli powder, and salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then take off the heat. The chutney should not have any free clear or thin liquid at this point – if it does, you may want to simmer until it’s thicker. Spoon the chutney into the hot sterilised jars, and either put the lids on immediately, or wait until the chutney is completely cool before putting on the lids. Don’t forget to label with the chutney type and date you made it. If you have some surplus chutney which is too small to put in a a jar, put it into a small dish or ramekin, cover with clingfilm, and keep it in the fridge – cook’s perk!
This needs at least 1 month to mature, more time is better. Store in a cool dark place. Once opened, you will need to keep it in the fridge. You can substitute the chilli powder for chopped fresh chilli (red or green), or you could try curry powder instead (but I’ve not tried that, use at your own risk). This chutney makes a good home-made present.
Reasons to be Cheerful
In January, we’ve been on a bit of a Young Sheldon sequence:
- Young Sheldon’s response to high electricity prices:
- Getting credited on a scientific paper –
- “Zero doesn’t exist”
- Young Sheldon takes on the IRS (as it’s tax form time of year)
Many thanks for reading this LinkedIn newsletter, and many thanks to everyone who has contributed. If you have anything you’d like to share, please email me and I’ll do my best to include it in the next newsletter.
It would be great if you’d like to subscribe to this newsletter, or even our weekly email one https://www.ghsclassificationcourses.com/home/news… (which includes access to the email archive).
Look forward to chatting to you in late February or early March.
Janet Greenwood, TT Environmental Ltd