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WHMIS GHS FAQs

Acronyms:

CPR - Controlled Products Regulations
F/P/T - federal, provincial, territorial
HPA - Hazardous Products Act
IDL- Ingredient Disclosure List
MSDS - material safety data sheet
OSH - occupational safety and health
WHMIS GHS - Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, 2015 Revision

Q. What is WHMIS GHS?

A. WHMIS GHS is Canada's national hazard communication system. Its prime objective is to provide relevant safety and health information to Canadian workers so that they can take the necessary precautions to avoid injury, illness and premature death. The key elements of WHMIS GHS are cautionary labelling, MSDSs and worker education and training programs. WHMIS GHS ensures that employers have adequate information about hazardous materials being used in the workplace so that they can meet their legal obligations under F/P/T OSH legislation to provide a safe workplace. WHMIS GHS addresses both the workers' right-to-know the identity and hazards of workplace chemicals and the need for industry to protect confidential business information.

Q. Do MSDSs and labels prepared in accordance with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) meet Canadian requirements?

A. No. The WHMIS GHS supplier MSDS and label requirements are more prescriptive than those set out under the HCS.

The categories of information which must be addressed on a MSDS are set out in section 12 and Schedule I to the CPR. However, in recognition of other regulatory programs, with certain caveats, Canada does accept the International Labour Organization 16-heading MSDS format.

The information, including hazard symbols, which must be disclosed on a WHMIS GHS supplier label are prescribed in section 19 of the CPR. The information must be disclosed in both English and French and must be enclosed within a "hatched" border as depicted in Schedule III to the CPR.

Q. What are the language requirements for WHMIS GHS supplier MSDSs and labels?

A. A supplier must provide a MSDS in the official language or languages requested by the purchaser or, when no preference is stated, in the language used in the course of the business transaction. Suppliers must have prepared MSDSs in both English and French by the time they begin selling the product in Canada.

Label information prescribed by the CPR must be in both English and French. It is acceptable to have both English and French information within one WHMIS border or to have the English and French information within two separate WHMIS borders. However, if the second option is used, hazard symbols must be disclosed on both the English and the French labels. See section 24 of the CPR.

Q. Do I need pre-market approval for WHMIS GHS supplier MSDSs and labels?

A. No. There is no pre-market approval mechanism under WHMIS GHS. Health Canada does not accept supplier MSDSs nor labels for the purpose of issuing "approvals". The preparation of MSDSs and labels is the responsibility of the supplier and/or importer of the controlled product.

Q. Does WHMIS GHS require the disclosure of information in relation to the Domestic Substances List (DSL) and the Non-domestic Substances List (NDSL)?

A. No. Both the DSL and NDSL are administered by Environment Canada pursuant to the New Substances Notification Regulations (July 1994) under the authority of the Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA).

Q. Does WHMIS GHS limit or restrict the use of products in the workplace?

A. No. WHMIS GHS is a hazard communication system. Neither the WHMIS GHS requirements established under Part II of the HPA nor CPR restrict nor otherwise limit the use of any materials in the workplace. Non-WHMIS GHS OSH requirements place an onus on employers to protect their workers from all manner of health and safety hazards. It is also the OSH agencies which set occupational exposure limits.

Q. May I import a controlled product for which a WHMIS GHS supplier MSDS has not been prepared and a supplier label has not been applied?

A. Yes; however, such importation is subject to the conditions specified in section 23 of the CPR. Under this exemption, prior to or on the date of importation into Canada of any controlled product that is to be labelled or repackaged in Canada, the importer must provide an inspector located in each province into which the product is imported with a notice which includes the information set out in subparagraphs 23(1)(a)(i) to (iv) of the CPR. This notice will suffice for a period of three years for the importation of products listed in the notice that are labelled or repackaged at the premises indicated in the notice. When a controlled product is imported pursuant to this exemption, it must be brought into compliance with the HPA and CPR prior to being used or sold in Canada.

Q. What products are subject to WHMIS GHS supplier MSDS and label requirements?

A. Unless excluded under section 12 of the HPA, products which fall within any of the following hazard classes are subject to WHMIS GHS supplier MSDS and label requirements if they are sold or imported for use in a workplace:

Compressed Gas;
Flammable and Combustive Material;
Oxidizing material;
Poisonous and Infectious Material;
Corrosive material; and
Dangerously Reactive Material

Q. How does a supplier know if a product is a WHMIS GHS "controlled product"?

A. A product, material or substance which falls within any of the hazard criteria set out in sections 33 to 65 of the CPR is a "controlled product" and, unless excluded under section 12 of the HPA, is subject to the supplier MSDS and label requirements of the HPA if the controlled product is sold or imported for use in a Canadian workplace. It is the responsibility of the party marketing the product in Canada or the Canadian importer to assess the product against the classification criteria of the CPR.

Section 12 of the HPA excludes certain product categories from the federal WHMIS GHS requirement to apply a supplier label and to transmit a MSDS. These categories are: food; drugs; cosmetics; medical devices; pesticides; explosives; radioactive materials (except controlled product carrier materials in radionuclide mixtures); consumer "restricted" products; wood and products made of wood; tobacco and products made of tobacco; manufactured articles; and hazardous waste.

Q. Is the Ingredient Disclosure List (IDL) a list of controlled products?

A. No. The IDL is a list of substances which, if present in a WHMIS GHS controlled product, must be disclosed on the MSDS if present at or above the specified "cut-off" concentration; (either 1.0% or 0.1%). Ingredient disclosure is not limited to substances which appear on the IDL. Substances included on the IDL are one of several categories of ingredients which must be disclosed on the MSDS if present in a controlled product. The criteria for ingredient disclosure is set out in subparagraphs 13(a)(i) to (iv) of the HPA.

Q. Is a supplier required to test his/her product to determine if it is a WHMIS GHS controlled product?

A. No. WHMIS GHS is based on available information and neither the HPA nor CPR require testing.

Q. Why can a substance that has been assessed as not toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) fall within the toxicological criteria specified in the CPR?

A. Under CEPA, 1999 a determination may be made that a substance is or is not "toxic", as defined under section 64 of the Act, which states, in part: "...a substance is toxic if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that

(a) have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity;
(b) constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or
(c) constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."

A determination of "toxic" under CEPA, 1999, is based upon an assessment of potential risks to the environment and/or to human health associated with exposures in the general environment. For humans, this involves exposures from ambient and indoor air, drinking water, foodstuffs and the use of consumer products. A risk assessment under CEPA is not relevant to nor does it preclude an assessment against the hazard criteria specified in the CPR for products intended for workplace use.

Q. If IARC and/or ACGIH have classified a chemical or class of chemicals as carcinogenic to humans and/or animals, what is the implication for a substance that has not been specifically assessed but shares a common element or functional group?

A. In general, if an IARC monograph does not specifically address a chemical or group of chemicals, the results of the assessment described in the monograph may not apply. The chemical or group of chemicals would not necessarily, as a consequence of the chemical or group of chemicals sharing a common element or functional group with a substance that has been assessed, fall within the criteria specified in paragraph 54(b) of the CPR.

Similarly if a chemical or a group of chemicals is not specifically encompassed under ACGIH A1, A2 nor A3, the chemical or group of chemicals would not, as a consequence of the chemical or group of chemicals sharing a common element or functional group with a substance that has been assessed, necessarily fall within the criteria specified in paragraph 54(a) of the CPR.

Note: Consistent with section 33 of the CPR, the fact that a product or a group of products was not specifically addressed in the IARC monograph nor classified under group A1, A2, or A3 by the ACGIH does not relieve the supplier or importer of his / her obligation to consider other evidence that carcinogenic (or other health effects) may result from exposure to the substance(s).

Q. What information must be disclosed on a WHMIS GHS supplier label?

A. Subject to specified exemptions, as set out in section 19 of the CPR, the following information must be disclosed on a WHMIS GHS supplier label: the product identifier; the supplier identifier; a statement to the effect that a MSDS is available; the hazard symbol(s) depicted in Schedule II to the CPR; and where the container has a capacity of more than 100 millilitres, risk phrases, precautionary statements and first aid measures. This information must be enclosed within the WHMIS GHS "hatched" border depicted in Schedule III to the CPR.

Q. May Spanish be used on the supplier label?

A. Yes. Spanish may be used within the WHMIS GHS supplier label border in addition to the required English and French languages.

Q. When must supplier labels be revised?

A. As required by section 29 of the CPR, where new information becomes available in respect of a controlled product or an ingredient of a controlled product, the supplier must revise the label. A supplier is not obliged to send updated labels to previous customers in the absence of subsequent sales.

Q. If a controlled product is imported into Canada, must a Canadian "supplier identifier" be disclosed on the label?

A. No. The term "supplier" is defined in section 11 of the HPA and includes "a person who is a manufacturer, processor or packager of a controlled product or a person who, in the course of business, imports or sells controlled products". The "supplier identifier" (a term which is defined in section 2 of the CPR to mean "the name of the supplier of the controlled product") must be disclosed on the label.

Q. Must the "WHMIS GHS" classification be disclosed on the label?

A. No, disclosure of the "WHMIS GHS" classification is not required on the label. However, if it is company policy to voluntarily disclose this information, then all classifications must be disclosed. If it is company policy to disclose Class B and Class D Divisions and, in the case of Class D, the Subdivisions, then all Divisions and Subdivisions must be disclosed. (Please also refer to the discussion of section 43 of the CPR in the Reference Manual for information relating to "Redundancy of multiple classifications within WHMIS GHS Class D".)