Labour Program Hazard Alert: Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) – Temporary changes related to COVID-19

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Temporary changes and legislative requirements

In order to address a possible shortage of cleaning supplies containing chemicals effective against the COVID-19 virus in Canada, Health Canada has put in place an interim policy that will allow quicker imports of products from the United States (U. S.).

The interim policy applies to the following types of products imported from the United States only:

  • cleaning products used mainly to clean, bleach or scour surfaces (but not products used to polish, protect or improve the appearance of surfaces)
  • laundry and dishwashing products used mainly to clean (but not fabric softeners or other such products)

These products may be sold to Canadian work places with U.S. labelling and safety data sheets (SDS). Important information will still be present, but the product labelling and SDS may appear different.

Similar temporary measures are already in place for certain imported consumer health products, including cleaning and hygiene products.

What to expect when these products arrive in your work place

Should these products arrive in your work place, they may have the following differences that will require an update to the current employee education and training program:

  • The label and/or the SDS may only be in English
  • Hazard pictograms are present on the label and look the same, however, the meaning may not be exactly as prescribed in the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR)
  • Hazard and precautionary information is present on the SDS and label, but not exactly as prescribed in the HPR
  • Information concerning confidential business information will not be included on labels and/or SDS as usually required under the Hazardous Material Information Review Act

Please consult the WHMIS 2015 - Variances Between the HPR and the United States Hazard Communication Standard (2012) - Health Canada for guidance.

Impacts to workplaces related to the Canada Labour Code, Part II and Regulations

The Canada Labour Code, Part II, and the pursuant Occupational Health and Safety RegulationsFootnote 1 require employers to educate and train employees on all hazard associated with the products that are used, or stored for use, in the work place.

As a result, some supplemental training by employers may be required. The training ensures that employees understand the potential hazards and safe handling of these products, in the official language of their choice.

To assist in developing work place training, the employer can turn to the importer/supplier. All information required on a Canadian SDS and label must appear on the importer/supplier website that sells the products to workplaces in Canada in both official languages. Please consult the COVID-19 list of forms received for cleaning products for use, handling or storage in workplaces for a complete list of importers of cleaning products from the U.S. under the interim policy.

Background

During the COVID-19 outbreak, a shortage is possible for some chemical products that are effective in removing the virus on work surfaces.

Canadian suppliers may become unable to meet the demand for products while maintaining all the labelling and SDS required by the Hazardous Product Act (HPA). Health Canada is the federal department that administers the HPA and HPR.

Additional resources

For further information, please contact the Labour Program at 1-800-641-4049 or consult the Labour Program and federally regulated workplaces – COVID-19 webpage.

The Labour Program website also provides information on occupational health and safety topics such as:

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