WHMIS 2015 Updates: Health Canada Publishes Guidance Documents for Canadian Hazardous Products Suppliers

Earlier this summer, Health Canada published a number of formal guidance documents and other resources intended to help Canadian hazardous products suppliers navigate their requirements under the recently implemented Hazardous Products Act (HPA), Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) and other WHMIS 2015 legislation.

Below, we’ll provide a little background on each of these guidance documents and break down the key points that hazardous product manufacturers, importers and distributors need to know in order to ensure compliance with WHMIS 2015.

Guidance on the Use of Concentration Ranges Pursuant to the Hazardous Products Regulations

Under the old WHMIS 1988 Controlled Products Regulations (CPR), hazardous product suppliers were permitted to use prescribed concentration ranges in lieu of actual ingredient concentrations on their MSDSs and supplier labels. The intent of this was to provide suppliers with a degree of flexibility when it came to disclosing concentrations of ingredients that, by the nature of the product, were not always constant. Unfortunately, many suppliers took advantage of the prescribed ranges as a means of concealing actual ingredient concentrations as confidential business information (CBI), effectively circumventing the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA) application process for CBI exemption.

Health Canada recognized this, and eliminated the use of prescribed concentration ranges when it published the new Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) in 2015. Subsequently, the number of claims from suppliers who were now forced to go through the HMIRA application process skyrocketed. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission (HMIRC) was suddenly swamped with thousands of claims that had to be individually reviewed before the June 1, 2017 supplier compliance deadline.

Not only was the deadline for HMIRC review looking less likely by the day, but the application backlog also created a substantial financial burden on suppliers who were required to pay an application fee upwards of $1,000 for each chemical they submitted for exemption. Realizing this, Health Canada delayed the WHMIS 2015 supplier compliance deadlines for one year while it considered a solution.

Ultimately, Health Canada was responsive to the needs and concerns of suppliers. On April 4, 2018 Health Canada formally amended the HPR to reintroduce the use of prescribed concentration ranges specifically for the purpose of protecting CBI on SDSs and labels, thereby easing the burden on suppliers and the HMIRC.

However, the use of prescribed concentration ranges comes with some conditions that suppliers need to know to ensure compliance. For full details on the use of the new prescribed concentration ranges, read Guidance on the Use of Concentration Ranges Pursuant to the Hazardous Products Regulations.

Preparing and Maintaining True Copies of Supplier Labels

Another of the guidance documents published by Health Canada takes a closer look at the requirements for suppliers to prepare and maintain “true copies” of supplier container labels. Section 14.3 (1)(a) of the HPA states:

14.3(1) Every supplier who sells or imports a hazardous product that is intended for use, handling or storage in a work place in Canada shall prepare and maintain:

(a) a document containing a true copy of a label that represents the label that is affixed to, printed on or attached to the hazardous product or the container in which the hazardous product is packaged in order to meet the requirement set out in paragraph 13(1)(b) or 14(b), as the case may be, when they sell or import the hazardous product;

The purpose of this requirement is to provide compliance inspectors with the ability to assess whether the label and/or SDS for a hazardous product complies with the HPA and the HPR. For example, the inspector may need to verify that the information elements of the label meet the legibility requirements of the HPR.

But what exactly is a “true copy” of a hazardous product label? The HPR defines a "true copy" of a label as one that is:

  1. In color;
  2. Legible;
  3. Clear; and
  4. Representative of the true size of the label

The guidance document “Preparing and Maintaining a True Copy of a Label: A Requirement for Suppliers under WHMIS 2015” offers an in-depth discussion of the “true copy” requirement, including examples of label formats that Health Canada considers acceptable for demonstrating supplier label compliance.

Document Retention Requirements for Suppliers of Hazardous Products

Hazardous products suppliers are also required by section 13.4 of the HPA to “prepare and maintain documents, including true copies of labels and SDSs, as well as sales and purchasing information, keep these documents for the period set out in that provision, and to provide them to the Minister or an inspector upon request.” This requirement has an intent similar to the requirement to retain “true copies” of supplier labels discussed earlier.

For example, in addition to maintaining copies of labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) in both English and French, suppliers would also need to document and maintain information including:

  • name and address of the person from whom the supplier obtained the hazardous product
  • quantity of the hazardous product obtained
  • month and year in which the supplier obtained it

For the sale of a hazardous product that results in a transfer of ownership or possession, the following additional information is required:

  • a document indicating the locations at which sales took place (i.e., address of the supplier's place of business)
  • the period during which sales took place and, for each month in that period, the quantity sold during the month

Subsection 14.3(2) of the HPA requires suppliers to maintain documents for six years, unless regulations specify another time period. This six-year time period aligns with existing document retention requirements that suppliers may already be required to meet, such as those under Canada’s federal Income Tax Act.

The full guidance document “Document Retention Requirements for Suppliers of Hazardous Products” goes into greater detail on these requirements, including acceptable locations and electronic formats for storing required information, exemptions to the requirement, and rules for producing those documents when requested by Health Canada.

Joint Health Canada and U.S. OSHA Guidance

Yet another recently published guidance document looks at the differences and similarities between the hazardous product supplier requirements under Health Canada’s WHMIS 2015 and U.S. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom 2012).

The document specifically summarizes the differences between U.S. and Canadian jurisdictional and regulatory frameworks, and provides a detailed comparison of WHMIS 2015 and HazCom 2012 container labeling requirements. The document also includes a discussion on the appropriate use of the Hazard Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC), Physical Hazard Not Otherwise Classified (PHNOC) and Health Hazard Not Otherwise Classified (HHNOC) hazard classes on SDSs and labels.

If your business operates in both the U.S. and Canada, or if you’re concerned about how to ensure compliance with both WHMIS 2015 and HazCom 2012, check out the full document “Joint Health Canada and United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration Guidance.”

Additional Guidance for Suppliers on WHMIS 2015 Compliance

Other guidance documents recently published by Health Canada include:

Stay Up-to-Date with the Latest on WHMIS 2015!

For additional supplier compliance resources, and to receive the latest updates on WHMIS and Canada’s implementation of GHS, be sure to subscribe to WHMIS News and the MSDSonline Blog.

Looking for a way to get up to speed quickly with your WHMIS 2015 requirements? Don’t forget to check out the VelocityEHS webinar “WHMIS 2015 Deadlines Have Passed: Are You in Compliance?” Whether you’re a hazardous product supplier or a worker who handles hazardous chemicals on the job, you’ll get a detailed overview of WHMIS 2015 and learn tips on how to simplify compliance. Click Here to Watch it On-Demand!

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