Tuesday, May 21st, 2019
Canadian and USA Flags

Differences between U.S. OSHA and Canadian HPR WHMIS Regulations

In Canada, hazardous products are regulated by Canada’s Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), and Canada’s national hazard communication standard, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Enforcement is done through provincial or territorial government departments responsible for health and safety, or the federal labor program for federally regulated workplaces.

Health and safety legislation in the United States is regulated by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). In the USA, hazardous products are regulated by OSHA and its Hazard Communication Standard or HazCom 2012. Individual States can have their own programs but this must exceed federal OSHA Standards.

Canada and the USA have transitioned fully and incorporated the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

Both require a consistent system for classifying chemical hazards, a consistent format for safety data sheets (SDSs), and standardized labels that use pictograms to depict hazards, specific wording to inform workers of hazards, and information on how to protect against those hazards.

Chemscape has put together a resource with a comparison chart between HazCom 2012 and WHMIS 2015. This guidance document may help companies involved in cross-border trade to identify products that may have different SDS or labelling requirements under WHMIS 2015 or HazCom 2012.

Some key differences between WHMIS 2015 and HazCom 2012 include the following requirements for Canadian SDSs and labels:

  • Register confidential business information according to the Canadian Hazardous Materials Information Act.
  • The need for bilingual (English / French) labels and SDSs.
  • Requirement to update SDS and labels when suppliers become aware of “significant new data”.
  • A Canadian supplier identifier on labels and SDSs.
  • The inclusion of the biohazardous infectious materials hazard class from WHMIS 1988.
  • Label elements including pictograms for “Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified” and “Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified.”

In Canada, they have divided OSHA’s Hazards Not Otherwise Classified category and divided it into health hazards and physical hazards. Due to variances in labelling requirements, in Canada you are required to list information on HNOCs on the label and select the appropriate pictogram to represent the hazard.

Despite the differences between the U.S. and Canadian hazard communication regulations, is it possible for a company to have one SDS and label to meet the requirements of both countries’ standards?

Health Canada and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration have worked collaboratively to keep the variances between the two countries to a minimum. It is now possible to meet both Canadian and U.S. requirements using a single label and SDS for each hazardous product.


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