Canada Adopts GHS (What It Means for Product Stewards)

Canadian regulators are adopting GHS through the country’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Although the requirements will be similar to the United States’ GHS implementation, there are some important differences.

To talk about Canada’s implementation of GHS, Daniel Wolfish spoke with product stewards at Stewardship 2015 in Salt Lake City.

Wolfish, director of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau for Health Canada, said the transition is meant to create a system that allows, to a great extent, Canadian and United States requirements to be met through the use of a single label and SDS for each hazardous product. Variations occur only where essential to maintain current worker protections or due to Canadian legal requirements.

One of the differences between countries is that the Canadian legislation that Woflish’s office works under is criminal law. Another is that Canada is a bilingual country, so labels will need to be printed in both French and English. Another example is that for carcinogens, Canada requires labels to list the category. None of those differences prevent a company from shipping with the same label to Canada and the United states. If companies follow Canadian requirements, they will be able to use one label for both countries.

Wolfish described the changes that may be included in the transition, including:

  • New physical and health hazard classification based on GHS
  • A new approach by which the hazard classification criteria are applied to substances and mixtures when making classification decisions
  • New content and format requirements for supplier labels
  • New content and format requirements for SDSs
  • Changes to the exemptions and other requirements.

Canada has adopted a three-year transition period to give time for stakeholders to adjust to the new system and enable old labels to move through the system. Until May 31, 2017, manufacturers and importers can choose to follow WHMIS 1998 or WHMIS 2015 requirements. After that time, they must be using WHMIS 2015.

At the same time, Wolfish’s office is developing technical guidance in a phased way. First, it will put out requirements about labels and SDS. The second phase will go into detail around the classification criteria, based on collaboration with OSHA. “We have very close relationship and ongoing review of materials we’re developing to make sure our guidance is in aligned,” he said.

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