On August 9, 2014, the Government of Canada published in Gazette I (Vol. 148, no. 32) a proposal for adopting the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The regulatory proposal seeks to align current systems for classification, material safety data sheets (MSDS), and labels with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communications Standard published on May 26, 2012 (HCS 2012) and the approaches used in other countries that have similar GHS legislations. In order to align with the U.S. HCS 2012, the proposed implementation would come into force no later than June 1, 2015. Comments to these changes are being accepted until September 8, 2014. More details are available online.
The Canadian Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) has been in place since 1988 and is implemented at the federal level through the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR). Suppliers of hazardous chemicals intended for workplace use are required to classify these products and provide related hazard information on a MSDS and labels in accordance to these legislations. Under the authority of the amended HPA, Canada proposes to repeal and replace the CPR with a new regulation to be titled the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) that would essentially implement GHS. Canada proposes to implement the United Nations (UN) fifth revision of GHS and to 'the maximum extent possible' align it with the U.S. HCS 2012. The proposed HPR would also repeal the Ingredient Disclosure List and require amendments to several other regulations, including the Food and Drug Regulations, Hazardous Materials Information
In Gazette I, Canada describes five broad areas where the proposed HPR will differ from the current CPR, including:
- A new approach to establishing classification of workplace hazardous chemicals.
- Classification of physical hazards.
- Classification of health hazards.
- Hazard communication.
The new approach proposes to establish the principles of GHS and the U.S. HCS 2012 with respect to substances and mixtures; the mixture principles being one of the major changes from the current CPR. Similar to both the UN and U.S. HCS 2012, classification is based on available data and no testing is required for the purposes of classification.
Physical hazards will extend existing hazard classes currently covered by the CPR as well as adopt additional hazards of pyrophoric gases, simple asphyxiants, and combustible dusts to align with U.S. HCS 2012. The proposal indicates combustible dusts would not be required to be regulated when shipped in non-dust form, which, when processed, would represent the hazard of combustible dusts; this is a slight variation from the U.S. approach to this category. Canada also proposes adding a 'Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (PHNOC)' category to capture some hazards not addressed in either the UN model or U.S. HCS 2012, including products that undergo vigorous polymerization.
Similar to the approach for physical hazards, health hazards will be an extension of hazards currently covered by the CPR as well as additional hazards. The additional hazards include specific target organ toxicity -- single exposure and aspiration hazard. The proposal also adds 'Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HHNOC)' to address elements not addressed by GHS and a separate hazard class for Biohazardous Infectious Materials in order to maintain current CPR worker protection.
Hazard communication will include replacing the term MSDS with safety data sheet (SDS) as well as a proposed 16 section format with standardized GHS headings. To align with the U.S. HCS 2012, Sections 12 to 15 would be optional. The HPR proposes the SDS would be required to provide the chemical name and concentration or concentration range of all ingredients that present a health hazard for disclosure on the SDS. The proposal repeals disclosure of ingredients as previously required under the HPA to align with GHS or the U.S. HCS 2012. The classification of the product as well as information about any hazardous reaction product produced by proper use is to be provided. The product identifier and supplier identification would be required to be identical between the SDS and label.
Hazard communication will also include major changes to the label. The proposal establishes the use of new standardized UN pictograms, hazard statements, signal words, precautionary statements, and supplemental label elements where applicable. The HPR will contain precedence rules for labeling elements. The proposal would allow omission of non-applicable precautionary statements unlike the U.S. HCS 2012. The current CPR symbol for biohazards will be retained. The hatched border around the label content is not proposed to be retained. The inclusion of a product identifier and initial supplier identification is included in the proposal. There are a few label exceptions that should be noted:
- Products containing carcinogens at 0.1% or more will require a label.
- PHNOC and HHNOC are to be included on the label.
- Biohazardous Infectious Materials would require a label.
- Substances and mixtures that upon contact with water release a gaseous substance that is acutely toxic require a supplemental hazard statement on the label.
Information provided on the SDS and label will be required to be maintained in English and French, but the requirement to revise the SDS every three years in the absence of new information would no longer be required under the HPR.
Exemptions for providing SDS, label, or reduced information that would no longer apply under the HPR include:
- Flavors and fragrances
- Generic SDS.
Modifications to the exemptions include:
- Bulk shipment would be extended to products sold without packaging and would be exempted from labels as long as label information is provided within Sections 1 and 2 of the SDS.
- Small volume containers (capacity of < 100 mL) may omit the hazard statements and/or the precautionary statements from the label.
- Laboratory samples sent for analysis in quantities of < 10 kg would not require a SDS if the chemical name and concentration of the sample or its ingredients are not known or the sample is a non-commercialized product.
If new significant information becomes available, the SDS and the label are required to be updated within 90 days (SDS) and 180 days (label). New information and the date upon which it became available are expected to be transmitted by the seller of the product to the person who acquires it, or obtained or prepared by the importer of the product, in written form.
The proposed changes to WHMIS and the existing HPA and CPR for alignment with GHS in Gazette I should be no surprise to most U.S. and Canadian manufacturers currently working through similar GHS implementations. The changes appear to align for the most part with the U.S. HCS 2012 as well as the UN GHS model. The inclusion of Canadian specific elements is also not a surprise for most dealing in hazard communications these days. It is a reminder that while the UN GHS model provides a back bone for hazard communications, it is only a tool for other nations to utilize and adopt and amend as appropriate for their country specific needs. The Canada implementation reiterates this point with additional hazard categories that are an integral part of their legislation, like Biohazardous Infectious Materials, that were not included nor expected to be included in the model. It speaks to the reality that different countries handle aspects of hazardous legislation in various complex manners. It is also a reminder that companies need to ensure proper attention is paid to the development of compliant SDS and labels in accordance to the country specific standards.