Health Canada Releases Proposed Hazardous Products Regulations in Canada Gazette Part 1

According to an Aug 9, 2014 email from Health Canada, the agency is seeking “written comments from all interested parties on this proposal to repeal and replace the Controlled Products Regulations, and make consequential amendments to related regulations, to implement the GHS in Canada.”

The proposal is published in Canada Gazette 1, Vol 148, No. 32.  

The email states that “the proposed regulatory amendments would also amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Regulations and Hazardous Materials Information Review Act Appeal Board Procedures Regulations to reflect amendments to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act that came into force on April 1, 2013, as a result of the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012.

Stakeholders interested in providing feedback have until September 8, 2014.

Major changes to Canada’s chemical regulations would include updates to chemical classification, safety data sheet formats and the format of hazardous product labels. Following are highlights from the proposal:

  • …not moving to the international standard in this area would result in increased costs for industry; growing difficulty in ensuring consistent and coherent hazard information is provided to employers and workers; and negative trade consequences for Canadian companies operating in this sector.
  • Over a 20-year period, costs to industry are estimated at $285.5 million (present value), and benefits are estimated at $687.5 million (present value). This will yield estimated benefits of $391.6 million (net present value).
  • Tens of thousands of new or reformulated workplace hazardous chemicals enter the Canadian market every year. This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of workplace hazardous chemicals already offered for sale to, and in use in, Canadian workplaces. While the exact number of products regulated under WHMIS is not fully known, there is evidence to suggest that there are over 300 000 products covered by WHMIS.
  • According to Industry Canada, the Canadian chemical manufacturing sector imported more than $28 billion worth of chemicals from the United States in 2013 and exported more than $24 billion to the United States. These trade volumes represent only a small fraction of the total value of substances used in Canada to which the WHMIS program applies.
  • While it is not possible to quantify or monetize the total costs associated with reclassifying and preparing new labels and SDSs as a result of the different requirements between Canada and the United States, suppliers have indicated that this situation creates significant costs for Canadian businesses. For example, one small Canadian company indicated that it would save over $20,000 a year in relabelling costs alone if Canada’s requirements were harmonized with those of the United States. In another example, one industry association indicated that, if hazard communication systems were not harmonized between Canada and the United States, one of its members in the specialty chemical products industry would face costs of $2.5 million in creating labels that comply with both systems.
  • The GHS contains many elements that represent improvements on the current WHMIS, for example,
    • the GHS hazard classification criteria are more comprehensive and detailed than those currently in WHMIS, which improves the ability to indicate the severity of hazards;
    • the GHS identifies and addresses hazards not currently addressed in WHMIS (e.g. specific target organ toxicity — single exposure and aspiration hazard);
    • the GHS hazard definitions and classification criteria are consistent with other hazard communication systems already in use in Canada (e.g. the physical hazard criteria with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods are already harmonized with the GHS);
    • the GHS provides for specific language to convey hazard information, and, as a result, employers and employees are given the same core information on a chemical regardless of the supplier, and the standardization of the language would improve the comprehensibility of the hazard information;
    • some of the GHS pictograms are more easily comprehensible and are anticipated to improve hazard communication, particularly for workers who are not functionally literate, who are not literate in the language used on the label, or who have experience working in other international jurisdictions;
    • while the GHS format for SDSs has been allowed for use in Canada through an administrative policy, requiring the standardized GHS format would help to ensure that information is easier for users to find as it would be presented in a consistent manner across all SDSs and the information that employees and emergency responders need most appears in the beginning of the document for easy identification and reference; and
    • the standardized GHS SDS information requirements are more comprehensive and therefore provide employers and employees with a broader scope of information related to a workplace hazardous chemical, which improves employers’ ability to train and educate workers.
  • These new regulations would implement the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) hazard classification criteria and hazard communication elements — labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) — as per the fifth revision of the GHS published by the United Nations in 2013.
  • The proposed HPR would repeal and replace the CPR and would repeal the Ingredient Disclosure List. The proposed regulations would differ from the CPR in five broad areas: (1) the manner of establishing the classification of workplace hazardous chemicals; (2) classification of physical hazards; (3) classification of health hazards; (4) hazard communication and other requirements; and (5) exemptions.
  • Notably, substances that react vigorously with water to release a toxic gas (currently classified as a Dangerously Reactive Material under the CPR) would be classified in the Acute Toxicity hazard class of the proposed HPR in alignment with the HCS 2012. The proposed HPR retains a separate hazard class for Biohazardous Infectious Materials in order to maintain the current level of worker protection in Canada. The classification criteria of this class would be amended to align with the definitions of “Risk Group 2,” “Risk Group 3,” and “Risk Group 4” as defined by the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act in order to ensure consistency with that Act.
  • The hazard pictogram(s), the signal word and the hazard statement(s) would be required to be grouped together on the label. It would additionally be specified that the label must be durable and legible without the aid of any devices other than corrective lenses.
  • The requirement from the CPR for a hatched border around the label content is not proposed to be retained, nor is the requirement that the label contain a statement to the effect that a material safety data sheet is available.
  • For products classified as Biohazardous Infectious Materials, a new nine-heading appendix to the SDS based on the information sheets made publicly available by the Public Health Agency of Canada is proposed to be required in order to provide additional information that is more specific to the nature of the hazard presented by a biohazardous infectious material. As with the labelling requirements, this requirement would not be harmonized with the United States; biohazardous infectious materials are not regulated by the HCS 2012. However, as described above, this inconsistency should not have a significant impact because biohazardous infectious materials are distinct from most chemical products, and the market for these products is limited.
  • Information on the label and SDS would continue to be required to be provided in both English and French in conformity with the requirements of the Official Languages Act, and despite the unilingual HCS 2012 requirements. The information could appear either on a single bilingual SDS or two separate unilingual SDSs. Bilingual labels would continue to be required.
  • The requirement to revise the SDS every three years in the absence of new information in respect of the product would no longer be required as it is duplicative of the requirement that an SDS and label be accurate at the time of each sale or importation of the product.