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Labelling tool helps organizations comply with WHMIS, OSHA, GHS

CANlabel screenshot

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has released its CANLabel tool to help organizations that handle chemicals comply with requirements under Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), the United States’ Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazard Communication Standard (OSHA) and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). It’s a subscription service, but you can test drive a demo version to see if it suits your needs.

Last week I sat through a CCOHS web demo of the application alongside an outline of the GHS. It looks like a worthwhile product; definitely worth giving the demo a try. The key features are:

  • WHMIS, OSHA and GHS formats
  • Hazard classifications drive phrase options
  • Automatic translations of standard phrases to French and Latin American Spanish
  • The ability to customize phrases
  • Compatibility with off-the-shelf adhesive stationary
  • Multiple label sizes

The GHS “Purple Book” is essentially ready. If you use labels that comply with WHMIS and/or OSHA already, you can continue to do so, but you should be aware that the transition to GHS is underway—sort of. The implementation has been pushed back a couple of times, from 2008 to 2011 to unsure, and the government seems in no rush to discuss the issue; no law to implement the GHS has been tabled. Nonetheless, legal and regulatory changes are the final steps, and the CCOHS is trying to get business’ attention.

One thing I found interesting is that the GHS is not going to be fully harmonized.

Our hazard classification system will be a combination of WHMIS and GHS. In fact, GHS will become part of WHMIS. According to Environmental Compliance Insider, if your organization “manufactures chemicals, it will have to reclassify those chemicals under the GHS rules, and generate GHS-compliant labels and SDSs [Safety Data Sheets]. If your company uses such chemicals, you’ll have to get updated SDSs for those chemicals and ensure that new GHS-compliant labels are on them.” And train employees where appropriate.

Another limit on harmonization is that countries may pick and choose the parts of the GHS that they use.

Canada Occupational Safety Magazine says we shouldn’t be too hasty to act though. One WHMIS expert recommends companies not start classification or reclassification, but start learning the rules. Another is less convinced, warning companies against being “too proactive.” There is simply too little information on which to base any change.

Add a phase-in period and we’re unlikely to see GHS implemented until 2017. For more information, read the linked articles and this Globally Harmonized System “OHS Answer” from the CCOHS.

Tell us about your experience with the CANLabel system and feel free to leave questions about the GHS in the comments!

Adam Gorley
First Reference Internal Controls, Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Adam Gorley

Adam Gorley is a copywriter, editor and researcher at First Reference. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks, Inside Internal Controls and other First Reference publications. He writes about general HR issues, accessibility, privacy, technology in the workplace, accommodation, violence and harassment, internal controls and more. Read more
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