HOW DOES GHS AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS?
If you haven’t heard already, in Canada there is going to be an integration of GHS (Global Harmonized System) with our current WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).
This does not mean that WHMIS is going away. In Canada, we are merely integrating the missing components of GHS to our current standards. The updates include changes to classification rules, label requirements and safety data sheet (SDS) formerly Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
Why are these changes taking place?
There are many reasons as to why all countries are adopting GHS. One of these is to ensure consistency between countries and allow for smaller nations that cannot afford their own standards to be able to adopt these standards for safety. There are also easier to understand symbols in GHS. To let the users of the products know how to safely handle materials, a more user friendly system has been adopted. It was found that even after training on WHMIS many would not remember what WHMIS symbols and classifications meant. By adopting a ‘household’ symbol style, classification should be easier to recognize.
What are the benefits of GHS?
The basic goal of hazard communication is to ensure that employers, employees and the public are provided with adequate, practical, reliable and comprehensible information on the hazards of chemicals, so that they can take effective preventive and protective measure for their health and safety. Thus, implementation of effective hazard communication provides benefits for governments, companies, workers, and members of the public.
What must change to meet GHS?
Most of these changes will occur on the end of the supplier. It is your supplier’s responsibility to review classifications, have up-to-date SDSs and labels that adhere to the new policies for the products which they provide. We will outline in a later post what these labels and SDSs need to include to comply with the new standards.
In Canada, as an employer, your responsibilities to educate and train workers on hazardous materials regularly, ensure those materials are properly labelled and stored, prepare workplace labels and have up-to-date SDS (MSDS) available do not change.
Revised training from WHMIS to GHS standards will be necessary. If you have your own in house training program, slight modifications may be necessary to meet the new standards. If you purchase your WHMIS training system from your supplier or a third party, such as the WHMIS training course through Corporate Facility Supply, it is that party’s responsibility to have the course up-to-date for your training needs.
When does this come to effect?
In the US, most companies have completed their changes to meet the GHS standards. In Canada, complete implementation needs to be done by May 2015. In this time suppliers may be updating their labels and MSDS (SDS)s to meet these standards. Having these newer labels and SDSs does not violate current WHMIS standards and adopting them earlier is encouraged as to meet the May 2015 deadline.
As a business or employer, consult with your chemical supplier on how to start making the changes if they haven’t already approached you on it. They should have a plan in place. If they do not have a plan, you may want to consider a new supplier. Also continue the discussion here, on LinkedIn under our Corporate Facility Supply company page or on Twitter @CorporateFS #GHS.