The Canadian government has introduced Bill C-31 to amend WHMIS-related laws allowing for the implementation of a single global system for sharing chemical hazard information.
Bill C-31 will amend the Hazardous Products Act, the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act and the Canada Labour Code. These changes will allow the federal government to begin implementation of the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, commonly known as GHS.
The GHS system, developed through a United Nations agency, establishes a single globally-recognized set of rules for classifying chemicals in terms of physical, health and environmental hazards. It also provides for a single format and content requirement for hazard communication elements including labels and safety data sheets.
According to the Office of WHMIS (Health Canada), the GHS will be used to modify, not replace Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). For instance, material safety data sheets will be replaced by safety data sheets (SDSs). New requirements on supplier labels will include signal words (warning or danger), a precautionary statement and pictograms (replacing WHMIS symbols).
The GHS modifications are not expected to change the current responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers. Employers, for instance, will still be required to:
provide workers with general and workplace-specific training relating to hazardous materials,
ensure hazardous materials are properly labelled,
ensure safety data sheets (SDSs) are current and accessible to workers, and
ensure worker health and safety is protected.
According to Health Canada, the updated WHMIS laws will be in force by June, 2015. This would harmonize GHS implementation dates with the United States—Canada’s largest trading partner. Many other jurisdictions, including the European Union, South Korea and China have either adopted or are well on their way to adopting the GHS.
It is important to note, provincial and territorial WHMIS regulations will need to be amended to put into force the new GHS modifications. Regulations will need to address workplace WHMIS programs, including training.
Once Ontario regulations are clearly established, the Workers Health & Safety Centre will take measures to update our extensive catalogue of related training programs and information products. We will keep WHSC e-bulletin subscribers, clients and constituents apprised of our progress.
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