The extensive process to change Canada from its 1980s WHMIS safety system to the universal Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) is nearing its last stage.
In June 2014, the amended Hazardous Products Act (HPA) received Royal Assent to enable Canada's implementation of the GHS for workplace chemicals. Now, officials have proposed Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) to replace the Controlled Products Regulations, to be followed by a consultation period. Final regulations are expected to be published in the Canada Gazette Part II in late 2014 or early 2015.
Health Canada's goal is to have the updated WHMIS laws in force by June 2015. In force means that suppliers may begin to use and follow the new requirements for labels and SDS’s for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada at that time. A transition period is expected, but the dates have not yet been announced.
Provincial and territorial WHMIS regulations will also require updating. It is expected that jurisdictions will complete this update by 2015 or later. Employers will be expected to have updated their WHMIS program and training to include the alignment with GHS at this time (exact timelines to be determined).
View the proposed regulations here
Click here for a helpful backgrounder on GHS
Implementation of GHS in Canada
According to the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement, the GHS contains the following features intended to be improvements over WHMIS:
- the GHS hazard classification criteria are more comprehensive and detailed than those currently in WHMIS, which improves the ability to indicate the severity of hazards
- the GHS identifies and addresses hazards not currently addressed in WHMIS (for example, specific target organ toxicity – single exposure and aspiration hazard)
- the GHS hazard definitions and classification criteria are consistent with other hazard communication systems already in use in Canada
- the GHS provides for specific language to convey hazard information, and, as a result, employers and workers are given the same core information on a chemical regardless of the supplier, and the standardization of the language would improve the comprehensibility of the hazard information
- some of the GHS pictograms are more easily comprehensible and are anticipated to improve hazard communication, particularly for workers who are not functionally literate, who are not literate in the language used on the label, or who have experience working in other international jurisdictions
- while the GHS format for SDS’s has been allowed for use in Canada through an administrative policy, requiring the standardized GHS format would help to ensure that information is easier for users to find as it would be presented in a consistent manner across all SDS’s and the information that workers and emergency responders need most appears in the beginning of the document for easy identification and reference the standardized GHS
- SDS information requirements are more comprehensive and therefore provide employers and workers with a broader scope of information related to a workplace hazardous chemical, which improves employers’ ability to train and educate workers.