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WHMIS Changes on the Horizon


November 19, 2009
By Maria DiDanieli

Nov.
19, Ottawa, ON
– Canada's
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is going to change –
after remaining essentially unchanged for more than two decades – to reflect international
standardization of chemical hazard classification and communication. Once these
changes are implemented, hazard information prepared in other countries will be
easier to use in Canadian workplaces.

WHMIS is a
comprehensive program for providing information on the hazards and safe use of
hazardous materials used in Canadian workplaces.

WHMIS will
be implementing the key elements of the Globally Harmonized System of
Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS was created several years
ago to help standardize chemical hazard classification and communication
worldwide. Currently, the WHMIS classification rules, label and MSDS
requirements are unique to Canada.

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While GHS
will be implemented in Canada,
it will not actually replace WHMIS. Instead, WHMIS will be modified to
incorporate GHS elements. There will be a new set of classification rules,
label requirements, and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) requirements (MSDSs will be
called SDS). In Europe, GHS is already being implemented, and in the United States,
OSHA recently announced proposed regulations.



How GHS
will change WHMIS

Classification will be the first area of change. WHMIS will likely:



  • adopt
    all of the GHS health and physical hazard classes including some hazards new to
    Canada
    – aspiration (toxicity due to inhaling a substance into the lung) and specific
    target organ toxicity – single exposure hazards. However, not all categories of
    every GHS class will be adopted.
  • continue
    to include some hazards that are currently not in the GHS system, such as
    biohazardous materials.
  • have
    more specific names for its hazard classes.
  • combine
    two WHMIS classes (teratogenicity/embryotoxicity and reproductive toxicity)
    into one new GHS hazard class – reproductive toxicity.



Supplier
labels will also change, and will probably have a few new requirements. The
most noticeable change will be new pictograms, as well as the use of a signal
word – for example: Warning or Danger.

Depending
on the hazard class and category, a specific signal word, hazard statement and
symbol/pictogram will be required or prescribed, and must appear on the label.

It is still
not clear however if the names of hazardous ingredients will be included on the
label, or if the WHMIS hatched border will still be required.

SDSs will
use a 16-section format. There will be standardized information requirements
for each section. The nine-section WHMIS format for MSDSs will no longer be
acceptable. Another important change to note is that the product classification
and some of the label information will probably be required on the SDS. The SDS
updating requirements (every three years) may continue to be required.



Roles
and responsibilities

The current roles and responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers are
not likely to change in any significant way because of GHS. Suppliers will
still have to classify hazardous products and prepare SDSs and labels for their
customers. What will change is that suppliers will now use the new
classification rules, as well as prepare SDSs and labels according to the GHS
requirements.

Employers
will continue to make sure that their products are labeled, and SDSs are
available to workers.



Training and
education

Training
and education will also continue to be vital to Canada's WHMIS system, as
employers must ensure staff are educated and trained properly about the new
WHMIS and working safely with products. Workers will still have to learn about
WHMIS but will learn about WHMIS and changes due to the adoption of GHS
requirements, including new labels, "pictograms" and SDSs. They will
continue to participate in training programs so that they know how to protect
themselves and their coworkers in the workplace.



When
will GHS be adopted in WHMIS?

A clear deadline has not been identified for full implementation but since
Canadian regulations often take a year or two to move from initial draft to
full implementation, CCOHS expects that it may take Canada until after 2010 or 2011 to
see regulations come into force. Canada is likely to use a
transition period to implement new requirements and will likely try to harmonize
implementation timing with its major trading partners.



What
about GHS adoption in the US
and EU?

In the United States (U.S.) proposed regulations were published on September
30, 2009. It is not a final rule (the U.S. is accepting comments) but a
three-year transition period is proposed for full implementation. The European
Union (EU) has published their GHS revised hazard communication rules which
will allow for implementation from 2010 to 2015 plus a two-year transition
period.



Resources
The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers free
resources to help you learn more about GHS and WHMIS after GHS. For more
information, please visit www.ccohs.ca .

 

Source: 
CCOHS; The Health and Safety Report,
Volume 7, Issue 11 –
November 2009