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Get it right PEOPLE, GHS is not a law it’s a STANDARD based on recommendations noted by the United Nations

GHS is not a regulation, but a set of recommendations that a competent authority can adopt


In the US, there are four main agencies responsible for GHS implementation: the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The DOT was actually the first agency to implement GHS and OSHA’s adoption brings the regulations between the agencies into greater harmony.

And in Canada, the GHS will modify the well-known, Canadian WHMIS program, updating the pictograms, labels, (material) safety data sheets ((M)SDS) and changing classification requirements.  “WHMIS 2015” is the term used to describe WHMIS incorporating the GHS through amendments to the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and the finalization of the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), as well as amendments of appropriate occupational health and safety legislation and/or regulations in each federal, provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

WHMIS 2015 aligns Canada’s workplace chemical hazard communication with that of our international trading partners who have adopted the GHS.

HPA is the LAW and Legislation governing the new standard!

While WHMIS 2015 includes new harmonized criteria for hazard classification and requirements for labels and SDS, the roles and responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers have not changed.

Suppliers, defined as persons who, in the course of business, sell or import a hazardous product, will continue to:

  • identify whether their products are hazardous products; and
  • prepare labels and SDSs and provide these to purchasers of hazardous products intended for use in a workplace.

Employers will continue to:

  • educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of hazardous products in the workplace;
  • ensure that hazardous products are properly labelled;
  • prepare workplace labels and SDSs (as necessary); and
  • ensure appropriate control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of workers.

Workers will continue to:

  • participate in WHMIS and chemical safety training programs;
  • take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers; and
  • participate in identifying and controlling hazards.

GHS is being implemented around the world and uses a building block approach which allows competent authorities some flexibility in developing or modifying existing programs. In some cases, this flexibility can lead to slight country-to-country variations. To comply with OSHA’s new standard, businesses will have to re-classify all chemicals using GHS criteria, re-author all Safety Data Sheets in GHS formats, produce GHS formatted labels, and train workers on how to read new labels and SDSs, including newly identified hazards. Adoption of GHS brings major changes to OSHA’s HCS, especially with regard to:

  • Hazard classification
  • Labels
  • Safety Data Sheets
  • Training

For a hazardous product that is sold in or imported into Canada and intended for use, handling or storage in a Canadian work place, the “initial supplier identifier” (that is, the name, address and telephone number of either the Canadian manufacturer or the Canadian importer) must be identified on the product label and SDS. This means that the name, address and telephone number of a Canadian party must be provided on both the label and SDS. However, as specified in section 5.9 of the HPR, in the case of a hazardous product that is being imported only for use in the importer’s own work place, the importer may retain the name, address and telephone number of the foreign supplier on the label and SDS instead of replacing it with his or her own contact information.

In the case where a hazardous product is being imported into Canada from a foreign supplier and it is not intended only for use in the importer’s own work place, it is the Canadian importer (i.e., the Canadian party who is responsible for bringing the hazardous product into Canada) whose name, address and telephone number must be provided on the label and SDS. The Canadian importer is responsible for ensuring that the importation of the hazardous product is in compliance with the requirements of the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and the HPR.

Can an employer require that I have a WHMIS certificate as a condition of employment? Where do I obtain a WHMIS training certificate?

WHMIS laws do not require that workers be issued a “certificate”, card nor any other document to demonstrate that they have received generic education or site-specific WHMIS training. Neither Health Canada, nor any other regulatory authority, issues WHMIS certificates to workers. If you are interested in replacing a document which indicates that you have received WHMIS education, please contact the party from whom you obtained it.

Is my WHMIS training transferable to a future employer?

Generic WHMIS education can apply to any workplace. However, exposure to controlled or hazardous products will depend on the nature of the work. Thus, the employer must ensure that the employee receives site-specific training that is applicable to the work that the employee is required to perform.

Must I be trained annually?

In general, employers tend to review their WHMIS training programs at least once per year, and more often if:

  • conditions at the workplace change;
  • new information on a controlled product becomes available; or
  • new products or reformulated products with different hazards are introduced.

The requirement for review does not mean the re-instruction automatically follows, but does identify any need for updating the program and, consequently re-instructing the workers.

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