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By Phil Molé, MPH

2023 is off to a quick start for new EHS regulations! Health Canada has just published a final rule to update its Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) to align with the seventh revised edition of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

In what follows, we’ll review the background of the final rule, summarize the key changes, and talk about what comes next.

The Background of Canada’s Update to the HPR

To better understand what’s happening now, we should take a moment for a brief review of hazard communication requirements in Canada and the background of the final rule.

In Canada, the HPR and the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) create federal requirements for suppliers of hazardous products intended for use, handling, or storage in Canadian workplaces to classify and provide hazard information through labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is Canada’s national hazard communication standard for hazardous chemicals found in the workplace and has been in place since 1988. WHMIS requirements include hazard classification, cautionary labelling of containers, provision of SDSs, and worker education and training programs.

Health Canada’s 2015 amendments aligned the HPR and WHMIS with Revision 5 of the GHS, and improved alignment with OSHA’s HazCom Standard, which OSHA had revised in 2012 to align with GHS Revision 3. This revision helped, to a large degree, to harmonize hazard classification and labelling requirements between the two nations. But as the years went by, and the UN continued to publish new editions of the GHS (aka, the “Purple Book”), both Health Canada and OSHA began to eye revisions to their respective regulations to align with more recent versions of the GHS.

As we blogged about at the time, Health Canada got the ball rolling when it published Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 154, Number 51 containing Health Canada’s proposed amendments to the HPR in December 2020. The proposed rule sought to align Canada’s WHMIS with the seventh revised edition of the (GHS Revision 7). The original public comment period for the proposed amendments to the HPR was scheduled to conclude on February 27, 2021, but due to significant stakeholder feedback, Health Canada extended the public comment period to April 19, 2021.

OSHA issued its own Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in February 2021 to update the HazCom Standard to align with GHS Revision 7, as we’ve previously blogged about. Because Health Canada and OSHA try to work closely via the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC), and OSHA indicated via their Spring 2022 Regulatory Agenda that they were targeting publication of a final rule to update HazCom by the end of 2022, many stakeholders expected that both agencies would publish final rules by the end of this past year.

A Summary of Updates to the HPR

That timing didn’t quite hold up, but at least in Health Canada’s case, it wasn’t far off. Health Canada registered its final rule in the Canada Gazette on December 15th, but the Gazette did not publish the rule until the morning of January 4, 2023. The compliance transition timeline for chemical users has now started.

At a high level, some of the major changes coming due to the final rule include:

  • Changing the name of the current “flammable aerosols” hazard class to simply “aerosols,” and adoption of a new hazard category (Category 3) for non-flammable aerosols.
  • The adoption of new subcategories for flammable gases. The final rule subdivides Category 1 (extremely flammable gases) into subcategories 1A and 1B, with 1A including pyrophoric gases (currently covered in a separate hazard class Subpart 19 of Part 7, now repealed) and chemically unstable gases. Subcategory 1B will include flammable gases that are not pyrophoric or chemically unstable but have a lower flammability hazard than those in Category 1A.
  • Expansion of the classification criteria for oxidizing solids to reflect the addition of a new test procedure.
  • Revisions to item 9 of Schedule 1 of the HPR to add new information regarding physical and chemical properties of hazardous products.
  • Adoption of a new physical hazard class, Chemicals Under Pressure, from the 8th revised edition of the GHS. The final rule states that this new hazard class will be within a new Subpart 21 of Part 7 of the HPR. This is a reminder that when an agency aligns its chemical regulations with the GHS, it doesn’t need to align line by line with any specific edition of the GHS “Purple Book.” An agency, during the process of either developing or revising its hazardous chemical regulations, can choose the elements of a specific purple book edition they like best, while leaving others, and can also choose to adopt select elements of a later edition of the GHS. Canada is now following the latter option with its targeted adoption of elements of GHS Revision 8.

The final rule also includes various amendments to the HPR intended as clarifications of hazard communication elements required on shipped container labels and SDSs, as well as some administrative updates. Health Canada believes that the coming changes will further protect the safety and health of workers exposed to hazardous chemicals and improve alignment with OSHA HazCom regulations – an important goal and commitment Health Canada pursues via the RCC.

What Happens Next with Canada’s Update to the HPR?

Canada has implemented a 3-year transition period from the date of registration in the Gazette – 12/15/2022.

As of the present moment, both Revision 7-aligned SDSs, and Revision 5-aligned SDSs are allowed and considered compliant per the HPR. However, starting December 14th, 2025, Canadian chemical manufacturers of affected products will need to use the revised provisions within the final rule.

Stay tuned for additional information from us about the coming changes. For now, just note that these changes will affect many hazardous chemical users throughout the supply chain. If you’re a chemical manufacturer of products affected by the coming changes, you’ll need to re-classify some chemicals, re-author associated SDSs and develop new shipped container labels containing updated hazard information.

If you’re a downstream user in Canada, you’ll need to make sure you have a good knowledge of your chemical inventory. If you have chemicals impacted by the changes, you’ll have to manage an influx of updated SDSs from suppliers, and potentially make targeted updates to elements of your hazard communication programs. For instance, if you have chemicals that will now be in the new hazard categories of non-flammable aerosols or chemicals under pressure, you’ll need to train your employees on the new categories and associated hazard communication elements, such as hazard pictograms, precautionary statements, and hazard statements.

Additionally, we should note one more aspect of the publication of Health Canada’s final rule that may be relevant to businesses in the US. Remember when we noted that OSHA and Health Canada had similar planned timeframes for final rules updating their respective hazard communication regulations? And remember when we mentioned that, via the RCC, OSHA and Health Canada have been trying to improve alignment and timing between their standards? Taking all that into consideration, the publication of Health Canada’s final rule may be yet another clue that OSHA’s final rule to update HazCom won’t be far behind.

As always, we’re here to support and inform. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for more news about the worlds of EHS & ESG, including any future updates on Health Canada’s final rule.

Let VelocityEHS Help!

When it comes to chemical hazard communication, VelocityEHS is the industry leader. Our award-winning chemical management capabilities in our Safety solution have helped thousands of customers and millions of users worldwide to simplify compliance with hazardous communication requirements and improve workplace chemical safety, while our in-house team of SDS Authoring experts ensure that your SDSs and supplier labels are in compliance with hazard communication regulations and chemical safety best practices around the globe.

To see for yourself how VelocityEHS can help you simplify compliance with WHMIS, HazCom and other global GHS-aligned hazard communication standards, request a demo today or give us a call at 1.866.919.7922.