Hazards in harmony: WHMIS poised for change with GHS adoption - WHMIS after GHSWritten by Mari-Len De Guzman 02 December 2010
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A common misperception about the GHS is the notion that once implemented in Canada, GHS will replace WHMIS. This is not the case, says Jeff Power, vice-president of operations at Calgary-based Danatec, provider of WHMIS and other health and safety training materials.
“WHMIS will still be WHMIS but certain aspects of WHMIS will change, such as the classification of products, labeling and the materials safety data sheet or the safety data sheet,” Power says.
Suppliers, manufacturers and employers, however, will have to get acquainted with the changes in the classification of chemical hazards under the GHS, Power points out. They will also have to understand the new format for communication of these hazards through the safety data sheets, labels and hazard symbols.
For employers, this means retraining workers on the new WHMIS. Despite the seemingly arduous task of retraining, Power says it’s really not a big change from what employers are already doing.
“Employers are still going to have to train and educate their workers on the hazards and safe use of products. They’re still going to have to provide workers with up to date materials safety data sheets or safety data sheets. And they’re still going to have to ensure appropriate control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of their workers,” he points out.
So, what are some of the changes that might occur on WHMIS after GHS? CCOHS’s Davison outlines some of them in a July 2010 presentation.
There are three hazard groups under GHS — physical, health and environmental — and each hazard group has corresponding hazard classes. Some of the WHMIS hazard classes may change with GHS. For example, corrosive hazard class under WHMIS may be classed as either corrosive to metals or skin corrosion/irritation, depending on the hazard group.
Five new hazard classes are contained in GHS that are currently not in WHMIS: explosive, aspiration hazard, specific target organ toxicity – single exposure, hazardous to the aquatic environment, and hazardous to the ozone layer. It’s not currently clear whether Canada will adopt all or some of the five new hazard classes into WHMIS.
Certain WHMIS classes are not on GHS, including substances and mixtures which, in contact with water, release toxic gases or vapours, and biohazardous materials. Again, it’s unknown whether Canada will keep them in WHMIS.
GHS implementation will also change the safety data sheet, from the 9-section MSDS to GHS’s 16-section SDS format. Nine pictograms will embody the revised hazard classes, and label elements will include a pictogram, signal word and hazard statement.
The CCOHS has produced several free materials to help employers, suppliers and manufacturers understand the GHS a little better. These resources can be found on its website, www.ccohs.ca.
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Published in Hygiene Stories