Sunday, November 14, 2010


WHMIS: The ‘Globally Harmonized System’ and What It Means to You

The next review in the process of legislating the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, also known as GHS, will take place Dec. 7-9, 2010, in Geneva.

According to Health Canada, the GHS is expected to:

• Protect human health and the environment by providing an internationally comprehensive system for hazard communication;
• Promote regulatory efficiency and facilitate compliance;
• Provide better and more consistent information about hazardous chemicals;
• Reduce the need for duplicative testing and evaluation of hazardous chemicals;
• Eliminate barriers to international trade in chemicals whose hazards have been properly assessed and identified internationally; and,
• Provide a recognized framework for countries that don’t currently have their own hazardous substance communication systems.

How will the GHS impact regulations in Canada?
When the GHS regulations are applied to WHMIS, there will be new rules for classification and labeling of chemical products, and the preparation of safety data sheets (SDS), as amended under the Good Government Act, 2010, from Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). WHMIS will not be replaced by GHS; however, WHMIS will incorporate GHS elements.

There will be new guidelines for the following:
• Classification rules
• Label requirements
• Safety Data Sheets formerly known as material safety data sheet (MSDS) will have a format change (16 sections instead of 9)and additional content will be required.
• Some hazard classes will have more specific names
• Some new classes may be added to WHMIS (i.e. explosives – currently covered by other legislation)
• Hazard pictograms to be used instead of symbols

How will the GHS in Canada Impact Your Company?
The impact of the GHS on your company will depend upon its industry. If it manufacturers chemicals, it will have to reclassify those chemicals under the GHS rules, and generate GHS-compliant labels and SDSs. In contrast, if your company uses such chemicals, you’ll have to get updated SDSs for those chemicals and ensure that new GHS-compliant labels are on them. Although the GHS doesn’t include specific training requirements for workers who handle chemicals, under Canadian law, the employer must provide training to workers on the GHS, including:
• The new hazard classes and categories;
• The new format for SDSs;
• Understanding the information on the GHS-compliant labels and SDSs.

How to Prepare Your Company for Impact?
There are several things you can to do prepare for a GHS implementation. These include:

• Get rid of old, redundant documents;
• Set up processes to ensure outreach to suppliers occurs on an ongoing basis; and,
• Assemble raw materials in a spreadsheet or database application;
• Begin indentifying the benefits of the GHS; and,
• Conduct your own research to keep informed on GHS progress.

Canadian GHS implementation objectives include harmonization to the greatest extent possible amongst the sectors within Canada, and harmonization, as well as synchronization, with Canada`s trading partners. Be sure to stay tuned into this newsletter for future updates. New regulations coming into effect prior to 2011 will have a significant impact on your organizations. Keeping current and informed will assist your company in making a smooth transition from WHMIS to GHS in the near future.
Shawna Mullen is a volunteer of Beyond Rewards Inc, a preeminent human resources, risk management, health and safety and training consulting firm based in Guelph, Ontario. Contact Shawna at