ALERT: Canada Proposes New Regulations to Implement the GHS

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Canada has always intended to adopt the UN’s Globally Harmonized System (GHS), an international system for classifying and labelling chemicals, and align with the US’s version. On June 29, 2013, the Canada Gazette published a notice that Health Canada is seeking comments on a proposal to repeal and replace the Controlled Products Regulations under the Hazardous Products Act and make other changes to related laws to implement the GHS in Canada. (Deadline for comments: Sept. 15, 2013.) Here’s a look at what Health Canada had to say about the proposed changes to what’s now WHMIS.

THE PROPOSED CHANGES

Impacted Laws: The proposed changes primarily impact the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR), which would be repealed and replaced with new regulations to be called the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR). In addition, minor changes to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Regulations, Hazardous Materials Information Review Act Appeal Board Procedures Regulations and other related laws will be made.

Alignment with the US: The new regulations are generally aligned with the US  Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS 2012), with the exception of areas where a variance is needed to maintain the current level of protection given to Canadian workers or to respect the framework of Canadian laws and regulations.

Key Areas Changed: Health Canada has a detailed description of the proposed HPR, including changes that will primarily impact suppliers and importers of hazardous products. But for Canadian employers concerned with protecting their workers, the key areas the proposed HPR would change include:

Adopted hazard classes. The HPR proposes adoption of two GHS hazard classes in alignment with HCS 2012:

  • Physical hazard classes, which represent hazards relating to chemical properties, such as flammability; and
  • Health hazard classes, which represent hazards to health arising from exposure to a substance or mixture.

As expected, the proposed HPR does not adopt the GHS’s environmental hazards class. As to the physical and health hazard classes, although the GHS classes subdivide these hazards differently than the CPR, these classes address all of the physical and health hazards that are currently covered in those regulations and introduce some additional hazards that aren’t currently covered but would enhance worker protections.

Hazard communication. The HPR would require a label and “safety data sheet” (SDS) for each product that meets hazard classification criteria. The CPR requirements for labels and MSDSs would be changed to reflect the GHS’s content and format specifications and to align with the HCS 2012. For example, the term “safety data sheet” would replace the term “material safety data sheet.” But the general WHMIS approach to communicating the hazards of a product on a label and SDS through pictures and statements would stay the same.

For example, despite the unilingual HCS 2012 requirements, information on a label and SDS would still have to be provided in both English and French, which could appear on a single SDS or two separate ones. But SDSs wouldn’t have to be revised every three years in the absence of new information because this requirement is duplicative of the requirement that an SDS and label be accurate at the time of sale or import.

Exemptions. The current regulations allow, under certain conditions, exemptions to some SDS and label requirements. In the proposed HPR, some of these exemptions would be removed, some kept without modification, some retained with modification and a few new exemptions would be created.

For example, the CPR bulk shipment exemption would be extended to products sold without packaging of any sort regardless of whether they’re shipped, which is aligned with the HCS 2012. In addition, these products would be exempted from the label requirement as all label information would be included on the required SDS. And only two of the existing exemptions from the labelling of the outer container of a hazardous product would be retained:

  • When the inner container label is visible and legible through the outer container; and
  • When the outer container has a label that complies with the TDGA Regulations.

One of the key new exemptions proposed is that an SDS and label wouldn’t have to reflect significant new information for a period of 90 and 180 days, respectively, from the date when the information became available provided that the new information and date it became available are sent by the seller, or obtained or prepared by the importer, in written form.

ANALYSIS

Based on the most recent timeline on GHS implementation, Health Canada has met its goal of introducing amendments to the Hazardous Products Act and related regulations in the Spring 2013. So it appears the agency is on schedule to finalize the changes to the key laws and regulations by Spring 2014. Then it’ll be up to the provinces and territories to amend their corresponding OHS laws by June 2015. We’ll keep you up to date as the process progresses.

In the meantime, read this special report on GHS for an overview of the system and what steps you can take now to prepare for its implementation. The OHS Insider’s WHMIS/GHS Compliance Centre also has additional resources on GHS. And stay tuned for information on an upcoming webinar on the proposed changes and new GHS regulations.