Waiting for WHMIS – An update on Canada’s adoption of GHS

ghs_canadaThe Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) which provides Canada’s workplace chemicals hazard communication system recently published its proposed Hazardous Products Regulations and Canada’s GHS adoption in the Canada Gazette. Proposed changes include implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) as published by the United Nations without the loss of current protections and while respecting legal frameworks. Canada aims to align with the U.S. GHS standards to the fullest extent possible; however, there are currently variances between Canada’s proposed HPR and OSHA’s Final Rule. Below, we’ve listed a few of the key differences between Canada’s and the United States’ adoption of GHS.

Parlez-vous Français?

One of the key differences on WHMIS’ adoption of GHS will be the requirement to provide label and SDS information in both English and French. To remain in compliance with Canada’s Official Languages Act, the information could be provided on either a single bilingual SDS or two separate unilingual SDSs. Bilingual labels will also continue to be required.

Supplier Identification

In the U.S., the name, address and telephone number of the manufacturer or importer must appear on the label and safety data sheet (SDS).  Additionally, there must be a U.S. telephone number included in the supplier identification. In Canada, specific Canadian supplier information must show on the label and SDS. The U.S. supplier information is not sufficient to meet the requirements. If the company is based in the U.S. and exports to Canada, a Canadian contact must be provided on the SDS.

Labels on Kit Outer Containers

The U.S. requirement only requires inner containers to be labelled. The outer container of a kit does not need to be labelled. However, the proposed Canadian requirement notes that the outer container must be labelled.

Precautionary Statements

In the U.S., precautionary statements are required on labels and SDSs in Appendix C of the HCS 2012, GHS (rev. 4). In Canada, precautionary statements listed in section 3 of Annex 3 of the GHS (rev. 5) are required on labels and SDSs.

Category 2 Carcinogens

The HCS 2012 makes a label optional for mixtures containing a Category 2 carcinogen at concentration between 0.1% and 1%. In Canada, the proposed Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) requires a label on all mixtures containing carcinogenic ingredient with a concentration of 0.1% or more.


Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (PHNOC) and Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HHNOC) will require labeling for each classification.  HCS 2012 does not require information on HNOC to be on the label.

Hazard Statements

The omission of hazard statements on labels is not allowed in the proposed Canadian regulations. However, in the U.S., hazard statements may be omitted if the chemical manufacturer, importer, or responsible party can demonstrate that the hazard statement is inappropriate to the substance or mixture.

Combustible Dusts

Canada’s proposed HPR includes a hazard class for combustible dusts. The proposed regulations would only regulate products that pose a combustible dust hazard at the time of sale or importation.  Although OSHA has not provided a definition for combustible dust to the final HCS, the HCS 2012 includes combustible dust in its definition of hazardous chemical.

Although this is not a complete list of all variances between Canada and the US, there have been significant advances toward the adoption of GHS as part of the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Action Plan.  These efforts have reduced variances in each country’s implementation of GHS.  Currently, Health Canada is reviewing comments to the Canada Gazette, Part I and will be adjusting the regulatory proposal as needed.