Prevention System Updates

Health Canada seeks comments on WHMIS/GHS proposal

Release Date:  Jul 15, 2013

Health Canada has released for comment a proposal to introduce regulations that will help workplaces transition from WHMIS — Canada’s national Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System — to GHS, or Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Deadline for comments: September 15, 2013.

WHMIS is a classification system that establishes specific duties for suppliers, employers and workers regarding the control, handling, storage, and disposing of “controlled” products in the workplace. GHS will not replace WHMIS. Instead, GHS will introduce new classification rules, label requirements and safety data sheets (SDS) formats.

Transitioning from a national to a global system offers many benefits to workplaces, such as

  • increasing worker protection by adopting a globally recognized standard for communicating hazards associated with workplace chemicals
  • facilitating international trade through common labelling and other hazard communication requirements
  • lowering costs for businesses and consumers by reducing the need for re-testing and re-classifying chemicals from or for different markets.

The proposal calls for replacing the Controlled Products Regulations with new Hazardous Products Regulations that would implement GHS hazard classification criteria and hazard communication elements (i.e., labels and safety data sheets). The changes will not alter current responsibilities under WHMIS for suppliers, employers and workers.

Changes will not take effect until at least 2015. At this time, Health Canada expects to finalize its regulatory changes by spring 2014, so that the provinces will be able to amend their corresponding OHS laws by June 2015.

Next steps

  1. Learn more about the Health Canada proposal
  2. Watch for additional coverage of the proposal in the August issue of WSPS Network News, plus expert commentary on implications for workplaces, plus
    • how WHMIS contributes to an effective health and safety program
    • what resources exist now to help workplaces fulfill their WHMIS responsibilities and create a safer, more productive workplace
    • what resources will be available to help workplaces transition from WHMIS to GHS.