ALERT: Canada Introduces Changes to HPA to Implement the GHS

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Canada has been working to adopt the UN’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for classifying and labelling chemicals. It took its first concrete step in June 2013, when Health Canada published a notice seeking comments on proposed regulations to replace the Controlled Products Regulations under the Hazardous Products Act (HPA). On March 28, 2014, the government introduced proposed changes to the HPA and related laws as the next critical step in the GHS implementation process. Here’s a look at the applicable sections of Bill C-31.

THE PROPOSED CHANGES

Impacted Laws: The proposed changes primarily impact the HPA but the Bill also includes relevant changes to the Canada Labour Code sections that apply what’s now WHMIS to federally-regulated workplaces and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, which establishes procedures for getting trade secret exemptions to label and MSDS requirements.

Key Changes: The key changes that safety professionals need to be aware of occur in the following areas:

Definitions. The Bill proposes revised definitions of various terms, including “sell,” “supplier” and “hazardous waste.” It also has definitions for new terms used under the GHS, such as “safety data sheet” (SDS) and “hazardous product,” which replace MSDS and ”controlled product,” as well as “mixture.”

Supplier requirements. Secs. 13 and 14 of the HPA spell out the supplier requirements. The Bill repeals and replaces these sections with new ones that apply to hazardous products intended for use, handling or storage in Canadian workplaces. The primary supplier obligation is to provide labels and SDSs for such products that comply with the applicable requirements in the regulations. The Bill also specifically bars suppliers from importing or selling hazardous products that have false or misleading information attached to their containers or in their SDSs. And it contains new recordkeeping requirements for suppliers.

Enforcement. The Bill replaces Sec. 28 of the HPA, which covers penalties and enforcement. The maximum penalty for a basic violation will be a $5 million fine or up to two years in jail. The Bill also includes specific penalties for knowing or reckless violations. Proceedings for violations must be initiated within two years. And the Bill codifies the due diligence defence.

ANALYSIS

Bill C-31 just had its first reading and has a ways to go before it’s enacted. Assuming it’s passed, the government will need to set a date on which the changes take effect. Health Canada will also need to release final regulations under the revised HPA. Then the provinces and territories will have to amend the corresponding sections of their OHS laws and regulations to apply the new GHS-based requirements to workplaces that aren’t federally regulated. The original goal was to have all of these changes in place by June 2015. We’ll keep you up to date as the process progresses.

In the meantime, the OHS Insider’s WHMIS/GHS Compliance Centre has additional resources on GHS, including a special report, which contains an overview of the system and the steps you can take now to prepare for its implementation.