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Last week, Health Canada issued an interim enforcement policy for workplaces covered under Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). The interim policy provides exemptions for a number of safety data sheet (SDS) and supplier label requirements established under the Hazardous Products Act (HPA), Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) and Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA). These temporary exemptions are intended to ease requirements on suppliers of certain cleaning products imported into Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Under Canada’s Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), all hazardous products must be accompanied by an SDS and supplier label that meet WHMIS hazard communication requirements. This includes any hazardous products manufactured overseas and imported into Canada.

Simultaneously, the HMIRA and corresponding Hazardous Materials Information Review Regulations (HMIRR) establish requirements for what types of information may be withheld from SDSs and supplier labels as confidential business information (CBI) or trade secrets.

COVID-19 has prompted a significant increase in the demand for cleaning products in Canadian workplaces, and the time required to create WHMIS-compliant SDSs and supplier labels for imported cleaning products could create delays that limit the availability of these critical supplies during this critical time.

What Does the Interim Policy Do?

Health Canada’s interim policy seeks to minimize potential delays by facilitating the sale and importation of certain cleaning products coming from the U.S. into Canada ONLY. The interim policy will permit the importation of these products, even if they do not meet all WHMIS SDS and labelling requirements at the time of importation. Specific exemptions include:

  • Supplier label and/or Safety Data Sheet (SDS) may be provided in only one official language (English or French), rather than both
  • Required hazard pictograms are on the label, but are not exactly presented as outlined in the HPR
  • Hazard and precautionary information statements are included on the SDS and label, but do not exactly match the wording specified in the HPR
  • Information concerning confidential business information (CBI) is not disclosed on the label and/or SDS

What Cleaning Products are Eligible for These Exemptions?

The interim policy applies to the following cleaning products regulated under the HPA/HPR and, as applicable, HMIRA:

  • Cleaning products with the primary purpose of cleaning, bleaching or scouring surfaces
    • This does not include cleaning products intended only to polish, protect or improve the appearance of surfaces
  • Laundry and dishwashing products used mainly to clean
    • fabric softeners, fragrances or other non-cleaning laundry products are not eligible for exemption

How Does the Interim Policy Affect Importing of Eligible Cleaning Products?

Before importing eligible cleaning products under this interim policy, importers must fill out this form and email it to [email protected].

Importers of eligible cleaning products must also:

  • Make available on their website an SDS or SDS text and label text with the safety information required under the HPA/HPR. This includes:
    • SDS and label text must be furnished in both English and French
    • The SDS and label text must be made available to employers and workers upon request
  • If possible, distribute any products featuring bilingual or French-only labels to regions of Canada where the population mainly speaks and understands French
  • Provide Health Canada with a bilingual SDS or SDS text and label text, including pictograms as appropriate, containing all of the safety information required under the HPA/HPR
  • Provide Health Canada with any CBI information not disclosed on the label and/or SDS

This interim policy also covers secondary sellers (i.e. distributors) selling exempted cleaning products coming from the U.S. that do not fully meet WHMIS regulations. Such secondary sellers must obtain proof that Health Canada has received the applicable form for that particular cleaning product. Posting of the product on the list of forms received for cleaning products for use, handling, or storage in workplaces is sufficient proof.

Note: Health Canada’s interim policy does not change the enforcement priority for all other regulatory requirements under the HPA, HPR, HMIRA, HMIRR or other federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations. Unless otherwise communicated by Health Canada, this interim policy will no longer be in effect 3 months after all provinces and territories have ended their states of emergency related to COVID-19.

For further details, refer to Health Canada’s Interim Policy Information Page

VelocityEHS Can Help!

For a comprehensive overview of HPA, HPR, HMIRA and other WHMIS requirements, watch our on-demand webinar “WHMIS 2015 Deadlines Have Passed: Are You in Compliance?”

If you’re looking for a way to simplify WHMIS compliance, VelocityEHS is the industry leader. Our MSDSonline chemical management solutions have helped more than 18,000 customers and 10 million users around the globe to simplify compliance and maintain workplace safety, while our in-house team of EHS experts is dedicated to keeping our customers at the leading edge of hazard communication regulations and EHS best practices.

To see if VelocityEHS is right for your organization, Request a Demo or Contact Us at any time.

From all of us here at VelocityEHS, we wish you peace and safety during this difficult time.