GHS Adoption in Canada Clears another Hurdle Toward a Major WHMIS Revision

Supporters of Canada’s adoption of GHS had reason to celebrate this week as an important piece of legislation, Bill C-31, was given Royal Assent. According to an announcement by Health Canada, Bill C-31 gives Canada’s Minister of Health the authority to “publish proposed changes to the Controlled Products Regulations, to be renamed the Hazardous Products Regulations, in the Canada Gazette, Part I.”

Publication of those changes in Canada Gazette I is expected later this summer. These amendments to the Hazardous Products Act will set the table for big changes to WHMIS, including updates to chemical classification, safety data sheets, chemical labels and more. Canadian chemical manufacturers, distributors, importers, and employers will have significant work to do in order to prepare for WHMIS after GHS compliance.

In addition to aligning WHMIS with GHS, the proposed changes will also bring WHMIS another step closer to alignment with the United States’ Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom), which is currently undergoing its own alignment with GHS. In fact, Canada and the U.S. have been coordinating efforts to bring Canada’s GHS adoption online by June 1, 2015, the same date the U.S. will be completing a key deadline in its adoption. This overlapping of compliance activities should reduce stress on commerce between the two countries.

Some of the most anticipated changes to WHMIS as laid out by the CCOHS include:

  • New classification rules and hazard classes
  • A standardized format for Safety Data Sheets (SDS), formerly Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
  • New hazard pictograms
  • New label requirements

The new SDS format is a 16 section document, with sections in a standardized order. A big change to the handling of SDSs could be the repealing of the requirement to change the date of preparation for the safety data sheet every three years. Instead, the new regulation would require updates when new hazards become known.

Regarding the new label requirements, two of the biggest changes could be what’s missing from the updated label. It is expected that two long standing label requirements, the WHMIS hatched border and the “Reference to the MSDS,” will be dropped from the GHS aligned label.

While many changes are pending, Health Canada believes enough of the big changes are understood to allow everyone in the hazardous chemical supply chain to start preparing for WHMIS after GHS. To that end, Health Canada and CCOHS believe “now could be a good time to update the systems used to track the purchase and locations of hazardous products in your workplace.”

If you would like to learn how MSDSonline can help you through the WHMIS transition to GHS, please visit or call 1.888.362.2007