Canada, US to Synchronize GHS Implementation

January 27, 2013

In the Spring of 2013, Health Canada proposed amendments to the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) as well as the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR). Their proposals will begin the use of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for chemical labelling and classification in Canadian workplaces. Health Canada intends to align the with the American equivalent, aiming at a June 1, 2015 deadline.

Health Canada, once the amendment is made, will have the authority to implement GHS, resulting in changes to federal and provincial occupational safety and health legislation, according to a Health Canada spokesperson. Changes to the Act will spark further amendments to already existing Acts, such as the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Final amendments to federal regulations are planned for Spring 2014, giving occupational health and safety agencies time to implement the GHS requirements and associated training.

In accordance with the Regulatory Cooperation Council established in 2011, Canada and the United States have committed to synchronizing the implementation of GHS for workplace hazardous chemicals, which will encourage changes in the current WHMIS hazard classification criteria, as well as changes to the requirements for and safety data sheets ().

Ginette Bouchard, the Environmental Affairs Specialist with Bayer, is optimistic that Canada and the US can succeed in their plans: "Even though the industry participants acknowledge that it is not possible for all countries to be perfectly harmonized, due to country-specific variances, we are hoping to see a program that is as harmonized as possible, especially within the North American borders."

However, according to Larry Stoffman, Canadian Labor Council representative, harmonization may come with problems regarding labelling and hazard communication requirements. Stoffman also pointed out the potential impact of provisions in regards to confidential business information, stating that stakeholder input has been reduced since the formation of the Regulatory Cooperation Council.

The Hazardous Products Act (HPA) regulates labels and safety data sheets for hazardous products manufactured or imported to Canada. The Controlled Products Regulation (CPR) defines classification criteria, labelling and safety data sheet elements.

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