International cooperation on workplace hazardous chemicals

On December 7, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama announced a series of initiatives under the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Joint Action Plan. This announcement included an initiative to "align and synchronize implementation of common classification and labelling requirement for workplace hazardous chemicals ...without reducing the level of safety or of protection to workers" by implementing the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

Accomplishments of the Joint Action Plan include:

  • successful in aligning hazard classification and communication requirements for workplace chemicals in Canada and the U.S;  
  • it is now possible to meet the regulatory requirements for hazard classification and communication for both countries with one label and one safety data sheet;
  • stakeholders have been routinely engaged in the regulatory development process and stakeholder meetings will continue to be held as part of GHS implementation; and,
  • Health Canada and the U.S. Department of Labor have established a Memorandum of Understanding which promotes ongoing collaboration on the implementation of the GHS updates.

More information on the  RCC Joint Action Plan and the  RCC GHS Workplan timelines and milestones can be found on Canada's Economic Action Plan website.

By adopting the GHS, Canada has achieved the RCC objective of reducing trade barriers and providing benefits for all stakeholders by reducing costs for suppliers, and ensuring employers and workers have access to consistent and coherent hazard information.

On August 29, 2014, Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President Obama released the Canada-U.S. RCC Joint Forward Plan, which builds on the RCC Joint Action Plan launched in December 2011. Consistent with the overall objectives of the RCC and as part of the Canada-U.S. RCC Joint Forward Plan, Canada and the U.S. will continue to collaborate and promote ongoing alignment of hazard classification and communication requirements for workplace chemicals, without reducing the level of safety or protection to workers. Health Canada and U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have developed a Regulatory Partnership Statement (RPS) outlining the scope of regulatory cooperation, and a work plan describing collaboration activities. For further information and the latest updates on the RCC, please refer to  Government of Canada's RCC website.

Health Canada intends to continue engaging Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) partners and stakeholders on future updates to the GHS through existing mechanisms such as the Intergovernmental WHMIS Coordinating Committee (IWCC) and the WHMIS Current Issues Committee (CIC).

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