The Cat Came Back – WHMIS 1988 Lives!
More Than Just a Date
As reported in Karrie Monette-Ishmael’s May 19 Blog, an order-in-council resulted in an extension to the Supplier deadlines for compliance with the GHS-based Hazardous Products Act/Regulation (WHMIS 2015). Canada Gazette II (CGII), published on May 31, provided some insight into the delay in the supplementary Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) associated with the extension.
The transition extension itself (from June 1, 2017 to June 1, 2018 for manufacturers/importers; and from June 1, 2018 to September 1, 2018 for distributors) was cut and dried. However, the details in the RIAS are a reminder that despite the harmonization focus, there are still some unresolved issues in implementing the new hazard communication system.
Confidential business information (CBI) in the context of WHMIS has always focussed on masking the disclosure of ingredients on the M(SDS). Officially, Canadian suppliers were expected to rely on the somewhat costly and administratively burdensome Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA) process to obtain exemptions from disclosing CBI. Practically the provisions in the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR or WHMIS 1988) were used by most suppliers as a simpler alternate to protect CBI.
Although this was the practise almost from the start of WHMIS 1988, it appears to be news to the current organisation- to wit, in the “Background” section of the RIAS: “Health Canada officials have learned that . . . some companies protected their CBI…by disclosing…ranges rather than using the . . . HMIRA.” I recall the discussions in the early days of WHMIS 1988 and, although unfortunately I don’t have copies, some documented acceptance of the practise as an alternate to the HMIRA as long as it wasn’t abused.
The stated main purpose of the extension is to allow Health Canada some time to prepare a palatable alternative to the WHMIS 1988 concentration ranges – which some in the regulated community have dubbed “CBI Light”. “CBI Light” presumably could allow for ranges, albeit narrower than in WHMIS 1988, and restrict their use for higher hazard “CMRs” (carcinogens, mutagens, reproductive toxins and sensitizers of the respiratory tract) as discussed in the “Consultation” section of the RIAS.
The RIAS includes the thought that some other stakeholder issues could be considered as part of the review. Chief among these is Labour’s desire to bring excluded products (e.g. consumer products and manufactured articles) under the WHMIS umbrella. Given the heavy discussions (again the writer attended some of these in the early 2000’s as an active member of regulated industry) that took place to introduce WHMIS 2015 (the original goal was for 2003!) – I suspect the issues around incorporating the Hazardous Products Act s. 12 exclusions may not come to fruition during the CBI discussions.
A significant number of suppliers have progressed far enough along the WHMIS 2015 trail that the transition will not have a serious impact on their transition. However, those who have not completely transitioned need to keep in mind that the CGII notice did not change the transition philosophy that prevents “mixing and matching” between WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 requirements. i.e. Labels and SDS must correspond- as must labels and MSDS. Classification differences could also be problematic if warnings on “GHS” labels were not reflected in WHMIS 1988 MSDS. Similarly, the “expiry” dates on MSDS would still apply to supplies under the older system. Prolonging the transition potentially prolongs the opportunity for non-compliance.
The transition extension does presumably provide for some relief on direct shipments where the Canadian supplier could still take advantage of the exemption, in the CPR s.23, to have (with written agreement) the customer label the material on receipt.
Employers Ditto (Sigh …)
The RIAS “Consultation” section indicates that some employer stakeholders were concerned that extending the transition for suppliers would, in effect, decrease the implementation window for workplaces. This interpretation indicates a false sense of complacency in the “employer” community’s need to establish training and procedures for WHMIS 2015.
As the Health Canada naming conveys, the GHS-based system has been “legal” for use since the CGII adoption in February 2015. Proactive companies, particularly those with significant US customers (US HazCom 2012 was, after all, mandatory in 2015), may already supply to WHMIS 2015 requirements.
The majority of Federal/Provincial/Territorial (FPT) jurisdictions have updated their workplace regulations. Despite the FPT transition provisions, the expectation is that employers will, at minimum, train employees in WHMIS 2015 sooner if products received are supplied under the new system.
It would seem only prudent to undertake WHMIS 2015 training well before the “official” workplace implementation date. Items outlined as under review in the RIAS are unlikely to require significant changes to employee awareness requirements in understanding the new GHS-based classification, labelling and SDS aspects.
The May 31 CGII contains 2 separate notices: SOR/2017-92 for the new June 1, 2018 manufacturer/importer deadline; and SOR/2017-93 for the September 1, 2018 distributor deadline. The former contains the RIAS for both notices, found under the above SOR (referencing ‘Order Fixing . . . Economic Action Plan 2014″) at:
If you have any questions regarding WHMIS 2015 implementation, please contact ICC Compliance Center, Inc. at 1.888.442.9628 (USA) or 1.888.977.4834 (Canada).