Industry News: Canada to Adopt GHS

Back in the good old days, every country had its own regulations for occupational safety including labeling of chemicals and even in some countries difference agencies may have different chemical labeling requirements depending on whether their interest was occupational safety, environmental pollution or transportation. These different systems added significant cost and effort if a chemical was imported from one country to another since it would have be labeled differently for each jurisdiction it passed through.

Under the UN’s global harmonization system (GHS), countries use a standardized system for labeling the hazards of chemicals and a common format for presenting that information to the people working with the chemicals. The GHS system has uniform labels for chemical hazards, warning statements, pictograms and a standard format for safety data sheets. In the US, OSHA recently updated its Hazard Communication Standard to make it compatible with the GHS, and in the Europe the European Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008 on classification, labelling and packaging of substances and mixtures – the CLP Regulation has also been adopted to bring Europe in line with GHS.

The proposed Canadian regulations would substantially harmonize Canadian classification and hazard communication requirements for workplace hazardous chemicals with those of other jurisdictions that have implemented the GHS. A detailed discussion of the advantages, implementation and time table has been published in the Canada Gazette on August 9th.

As more countries adopt the GHS, the costs of international chemical trade should decrease and chemical occupational safety should increase as more comprehensive, clearer and uniform safety information is presented to those people who use the chemicals and have been trained on the new system.