Environmental Workplace Health – From WHMIS to HazCom GHS in Canada

WHMIS to HazCom GHS – Background

The goal of changing from WHMIS to HazCom GHS in Canada is to help international trade and safety by creating one standard system of dealing with chemicals around the world and eliminating repetitive, inconsistent systems of classification and labelling that can be both dangerous, confusing and costly. Worker health is also a high priority and by standardizing the systems by which workers handle chemicals, injuries will surely be prevented.

Now that Canada will be moving from WHMIS to HazCom GHS (Global Harmonization System of Classification and Labelling Chemicals) protocols you will need to be “in the know” about the changes or adjustments that you’ll need to make at your workplace.

No matter if you operate a 5 person machine shop in Northern Alberta, or a 5000 employee auto assembly plant in Oakville, you’ll need to comply with the new rules – so, here we go.

Why do we have the new “HazCom GHS” standard?

Well, previously, each country in the developed/developing world had their own rules and ways of handling chemicals.  So, chemicals would be handled and classified differently if different countries – one chemical might be labeled as “Dangerous” in one country, and then not labeled at all in another.  To keep everyone on the same page, HazCom GHS was created to unify all of the classifications of chemicals throughout the world.  No matter where you go you’ll encounter a consistent and predictable way of identifying chemicals using the new HazCom GHS standard.

How does the new HazCom GHS system work?

Since HazCom GHS is designed to be internationally consistent while labelling, classifying and communicating information about chemicals we should all be on the same page – literally.  This specific document is called the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).  This SDS will identify all of the hazards of that specific chemical and allow workers and employers both to be informed of the potential dangers and the proper safety and regulatory precautions to take.  Here is an example of a SDS: (PDF Download)

The aim of the new HazCom GHS system is to have a unified classification of chemicals by their physical, health, and environmental hazards across the globe.  With the change from WHMIS to HazCom GHS we will also have a global standard for communication the safety requirements for a specific chemical on the label and SDS.

Who is HazCom GHS meant for?

  • Suppliers – the new HazCom GHS system will help international trade by making it easier to deal with chemicals cross borders and in different languages. It will also increase consistency across countries on the labels and SDS sheets.  HazCom GHS will also reduce the need for testing between different classification systems, since all chemicals will be labelled in the same manner.
  • Employers – increased safety for employees will result in cost savings, along with costs savings from compliance.  Training costs will also be reduced over time with a consistent system that removes repetition from training multiple different systems.
  • Workers – greatly improved safety and communication of identifying chemicals without language barriers.

Becoming HazCom GHS Compliant

The best way to stay compliant is to become informed.  The Canadian government has lots of information on your specific industry and business type.

We also offer HazCom GHS compliance kits that will help you stay.  Here is our most popular kit HazCom GHS compliance kit. We also offer online training for your entire workforce which will keep you fully compliant and on schedule – get your free trial here.

What are the next steps?

Learn how Canada will be implementing HazCom GHS (along with schedule) and making this switch from WHMIS to HazCom GHS here.

 

 

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