Health Canada Publishes Proposed Amendments to Hazardous Products Regulations to Align with GHS Revision 7
On December 19, 2020, the Government of Canada published Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 154, Number 51 containing Health Canada’s proposed amendments to the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR). These latest amendments seek to align Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the seventh revised edition of the UN’s Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
The proposed amendments include changes to several definitions listed in the HPR, the adoption of a new hazard category for non-flammable aerosols and new subcategories for flammable gases, the addition of a new test procedure for Oxidizing Solids, and modifications to Schedule 1 of the HPR to update the hazard information elements required on SDSs and supplier labels.
The proposed HPR amendments are expected to provide the following benefits and protections for Canadian workers:
- Changes to hazard classification procedures for amended hazard classes will help ensure products are being classified to better reflect the true hazards they pose (e.g. water-activated toxicants, flammable gases and pyrophoric gases)
- Amended hazard classes and categories/subcategories will include more detailed precautionary statements on product labels and SDSs to provide workers with a greater understanding of product hazards
- The adoption of a new hazard category, hazard communication elements (signal word, hazard statement and precautionary statements) and other health and safety information will be required on labels and safety data sheets for non-flammable aerosols. These hazards are not covered in the current HPR, yet still pose a potential hazard because containers may burst if heated
- New hazard subcategories will be adopted to better distinguish between extremely flammable gases, extremely flammable gases that are pyrophoric, extremely flammable gases that are chemically unstable, highly flammable gases and other flammable gases. The adoption of these new subcategories, along with corresponding hazard statements and precautionary statements, help better protect workers from the hazards associated with these products
- Alignment of the HPR with the seventh revised edition of GHS will provide more comprehensive and detailed health and safety information on product labels and safety data sheets for the benefit of workers; and
- The HPR amendments will also clarify several provisions to better reflect their original intent and provide clearer health and safety information that will be easier for workers to understand
Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Activities
The proposed HPR amendments have the added purpose of enabling Canada to meet its commitments under the US – Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council’s (RCC) Joint Forward Plan, which has the underlying goal of continued alignment between US and Canadian hazard communication regulations.
The 2015 amendments to the HPR brought Canada’s WHMIS standard into alignment with Revision 5 of the GHS, and also into closer alignment with US OSHA’s GHS-aligned 2012 Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom). This helped, to a large degree, to harmonize hazard classification and labelling requirements between the two nations.
Since then, the US has repeatedly announced its intentions to update the HazCom Standard to a more current revision of GHS, specifically Revision 7. However, regulatory action by OSHA has stalled, and as of the release of its Fall 2020 Regulatory Agenda in early December 2020, OSHA has not initiated formal rulemaking to implement that update.
By aligning with Revision 7 of the GHS, the proposed HPR amendments mean that Canada is now leading the effort between the two nations to update and harmonize their respective hazard communication requirements. It also sets the stage for further progress toward achieving RCC goals by ensuring proactive alignment of labelling and SDS requirements for workplace hazardous products in the US and Canada.
How Do I Submit Comments on the Proposed Amendments?
The proposed amendments are just that – proposed. Interested persons are invited to comment regarding the proposed Regulations within 70 days after the date of publication of this notice. All public comments must be submitted by February 27, 2021.
All comments must cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, and the date of publication of this notice, and be addressed to Lynn Berndt-Weis, Director, Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau, Consumer and Hazardous Products Safety Directorate, Healthy Environments and Consumer Safety Branch Health Canada, 269 Laurier Avenue West, Address Locator: 4908B, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9 (email: [email protected]).
The complete text of the proposed amendments, including detailed changes to specific provisions of the Hazardous Product Regulations can be viewed here.
When Could the Changes Happen?
Based on recommendations received from industry stakeholders during Current Issues Committee meetings held between 2018 and 2019, it is anticipated that Health Canada (and later, Provincial and Territorial Labour Ministries) will adopt a two-year transition period to implement and begin enforcing the proposed HPR amendments, not unlike the transition from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015.
The proposed amendments to the HPR specify that once they come into force, hazardous product suppliers may:
- sell or import a hazardous product in accordance with the former (WHMIS 2015) Regulations; and
- classify hazards of a product, mixture, material or substance in accordance with the former (WHMIS 2015) Regulations if they do so using a category or subcategory of a hazard class listed in Schedule 2 to the Hazardous Products Act as it read immediately before that day on which these Regulations come into force.
If WHMIS 2015 was any indication, Federal, Provincial and Territorial (FPT) regulators will be concurrently developing occupational health and safety (OHS) regulations that incorporate the HPR amendments to their respective FPT labour requirements. Updated FPT requirements will likely come into force six months after the effective date of the amended HPR.
Due to continued delays by OSHA, it is possible that the transition timing may not precisely align between Canada and the United States. However, it is possible that chemical suppliers (e.g. manufacturers, importers and distributors) in the United States would need to comply with the amended HazCom Standard starting from an earlier date than when Canadian suppliers would need to comply with the amended HPR. If that occurs, Canadian suppliers who export hazardous products to the United States would need to be aware of the earlier transition to avoid having product SDSs and labels that would not comply with the amended HazCom Standard.
How Will the HPR Amendments Affect Me?
The proposed HPR amendments include changes to hazard definitions, hazard categories, precautionary statements and other WHMIS SDS/label elements. This implies that Canadian hazardous product suppliers (and ultimately, US suppliers) will need to re-author SDSs and supplier/shipped container labels for the products they produce, distribute or otherwise sell to downstream users to comply with the new hazard information requirements.
It also implies that employers who use hazardous products in the workplace will need to ensure they have updated their SDSs, supplier/shipped container labels, workplace/secondary container labels, and workplace education and training programs to account for the changes.
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