INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVES: WHMIS changes to match global classification standard

by JIM OGILVIE Aug 4, 2015

On April 2, 2015, Ontario introduced the Strengthening and Improving Government Act, 2015 (Bill 85). Proposed amendments mean a 2015 Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).

Daily Commercial News LogoWHMIS has aligned with the worldwide hazard communication system known as GHS — the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The goal is to harmonize and mitigate risks through better understanding across borders.

To ensure worker protection, employers must train workers about WHMIS 2015 as new labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) appear in workplaces. The Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) are building an eLearning training module to meet compliance legislation.

WHMIS is just one part of improving occupational health and safety as part of the government’s economic plan for Ontario. The PSHSA is working to provide current training and education options on what some of these changes to regulation and standardization involve and how they impact municipal operations.

What changes?

The four cornerstones of WHMIS are Classification, Training, Labels and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). GHS is based on similar building blocks and will provide improved protection.

Classification rules

GHS classification takes a “building block approach”. The three major hazard groups are: Health Hazards, Physical Hazards and Environmental Hazards. Each of the hazard groups are divided into classes. Classes may be divided further into categories and sub-categories.

For example, for health hazard classes, the categories can include acute toxicity and reproductive toxicity. For physical hazard classes, the examples are explosives, flammable gases, flammable aerosols, flammable liquids and flammable solids. Currently, Canada is considering one environmental hazard class and that is hazardous to the aquatic environment.

MSDS to SDS

In addition to changes in the classification system, GHS uses the words “Safety Data Sheet (SDS)” rather than Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Material Safety Data Sheet Requirements (WHMIS) require nine pieces of information. However, Safety Data Sheets (GHS) have 16 requirements such as identification, hazard identification, composition information on ingredients, first aid measures, firefighting measures, accidental release measures, handling and storage, exposure controls/personal protection, physical and chemical properties, stability and reactivity, toxicology information, ecological information, disposal considerations, transport information, regulatory information and other information.

Pictograms

GHS has nine pictograms to classify and label chemicals:

Flame: Flammable, self-reactive, pyrophoric, self-heating, in contact with water, emits flammable gases, organic peroxide.

Exclamation mark: Irritation (skin or eyes), skin sensitization, acute toxicity (harmful), specific target organ toxicity (single exposure), hazardous to the ozone layer.

Health hazard: Carcinogenicity, respiratory sensitization, reproductive toxicity, specific target organ — single or repeated exposure, germ cell mutagenicity, aspiration hazard.

Skull and crossbones: Acute toxicity (fatal or toxic).

Exploding bomb: Explosive, self-reactive, organic peroxide.

Flame over circle: Oxidizer.

Corrosion: Corrosive.

Gas cylinder: Gas under pressure.

Environment: Hazardous to the aquatic environment (acute or long term).

How to prepare?

Employers should continue to train workers on hazards and the safe use of products. While global standardization will simplify hazard recognition, employees will need to be trained on both WHMIS and GHS until the transition is complete.

Jim Ogilvie is a Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA) consultant.