Monday, July 8, 2013

The New WHMIS – Global Harmonization System (GHS)

The New WHMIS – Global Harmonization System (GHS)

GHS, another acronym that will be added to the health and safety scene, stands for Globally Harmonized Systems of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals. WHMIS GHS has been a long time coming to Canada with the implied belief that it will make a positive difference to Canada’s occupational health and safety. 
GHS promises to promote regulatory efficiency, ease of compliance and make WHMIS less complex for organizations, workers and governments – especially those who need to comply with many different systems in different countries – by providing a consistent standardized system.
The benefits of the new system, as outlined, are:
1.    Promoting regulatory efficiency
2.    Facilitating trade
3.    Easing compliance
4.    Reducing costs
5.    Providing improved, consistent hazard information
6.    Encouraging the safe transport, handling and use of chemicals
7.    Promoting better emergency response to chemical incidents, and
8.    Reducing the need for animal testing
With GHS coming into force, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) will be replaced by Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). The new SDSs will need to be obtained when GHS becomes implemented. As a result, new and revised training procedures and programs will need to be developed. 

Within the GHS, there are two major elements:
1.  Classification of hazards
a.  Physical
b.  Health
c.   Environmental
2.  Communication of hazards and precautionary information using safety data sheets (SDSs)
The following are target dates for implementation of GHS:


·      Unlikely to be in place before the end of 2013


·      Final ruling became effective May 26, 2012

·      Key Dates:

-     Training by December 1, 2013

-     Comply with all modified provisions – June 1, 2015

-     Updated alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication programs and additional employee training for newly identified physical and health hazards – June 1, 2016


·      GHS adopted January 2009 with certain regulations extended to June 1, 2015 with a two year transition period
Other changes that employers can expect with the new system include:
·      SDSs will have a 16 section format verses the current 9 section format of the MSDSs
·      Supplier labels will contain new pictograms and signal words – “Warning” or “Danger”
·      Classification of chemicals will be affected with potentially (not confirmed) more specific names for its hazard classes and will also maintain some of the current classifications
·      Employers may receive MSDS and SDS for same products until transition is complete
·      Employers should prepare for training requirements under GHS
·      Suppliers should prepare now to meet SDS under GHS for exported products and start process for products shipped within Canada ready for GHS.
To ensure that safety is not compromised, a key area will be training of workers that will need to understand both current WHMIS and WHMIS after GHS.  They will need to learn new elements, such as pictograms, the difference in label requirements, new hazard class names, hazard statements and new signal words etc.  For more detailed description of these proposed changes, visit 
 It is not recommended that companywide training be undertaken until GHS has been implemented in Canada.  With the US well on their way, Canadian companies need to be prepared for the changes coming soon.  With that said, companies should focus on understanding what GHS is all about, as well as becoming familiar with the new classification of products under GHS. 
Lynne Bard, BA (Honours), C.H.R.P., CES
Human Resources, Safety & Risk Management Experts
Taking the Complexity out of Compliance
Beyond Rewards Inc.
Phone: 519-821-7440
Cell: 519-830-7480

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