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Gaining Regulatory Knowledge

Many of us have heard the phrase, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” at some point in conversation with people. What’s interesting is the phrase was originally “A little learning is a dangerous thing“. It comes from Alexander Pope’s poem called “An Essay on Criticism“. This phase can be applicable when you work in an area with ever-changing regulations. The key is to get more knowledge.

A prime example can be found in a September 2016 newsletter from Responsible Distribution Canada (RDC). This group was formerly called the Canadian Association of Chemical Distributors. In Volume 6 Issue 37 is the headline “Issue being reported with some WHMIS 2015 Inspectors RE: MSDS vs SDS“. In the article, RDC was contacted by a paint manufacturer. The manufacturer indicated that a Health Canada inspector was on the job site causing problems. At issue is the following:

“The HC inspector apparently said the paint manufacturer’s MSDS sheet was not acceptable because a “Safety Data Sheet” should now be supplied instead of a “Material Safety Data Sheet”. The inspector added that this change became effective in 2015 and said that the word “Material” should not be mentioned on the technical sheets.”

According to the manufacturer they have yet to convert to WHMIS 2015. In this case it is the inspector in error and a classic case of a little knowledge being dangerous.

Why?

Let’s discuss why. Canada aligned the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) in February 2015. This is why it is called WHMIS 2015. A part of the new regulation is to move from using the term “material safety data sheets” to just “safety data sheets”. There is a multi-year transition plan or phase in period in place before the new regulation goes into full effect. Here is where the inspector gets in trouble. It is during Phase 1 of the phase in plan that the terminology shifts. The dates for Phase 1 are February 11, 2015 to May 31, 2017. Since the paint manufacturer has yet to convert to WHMIS 2015, they still have time as allowed under Phase 1. They are in the right.

The inspector is aware of the changes in WHMIS 2015 which is great but also qualifies as a “little bit of learning”. Where he is “dangerous” is the fact that he was not aware of the time periods involved with the phase in of the new regulations. He was trying to force a regulatory change that is not yet mandatory. Had the inspector been more familiar with the new regulations this issue would not have happened.

Another part of Pope’s poem is the phrase, “To err is human, to forgive divine“. While this is a lovely sentiment, in the world of business and compliance it just isn’t possible. For a link to the complete RDC newsletter, click here.

Don’t be a “danger” to your business. Get trained beyond “a little bit of learning”. ICC Compliance Center offers a full range of courses including WHMIS 2015. Call us today for compliance audits and the multiple courses and learning platforms we offer.

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