Government agency Health Canada has announced plans to back industry-supported changes on disclosure of ingredient concentrations before fully implementing the updated Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS 2015).
However, it will wait until after the the changes kick in before addressing labour organisations' demands. Labour organisations had wanted the government to consider them during the implementation delay announced in June.
Health Canada had already delayed its deadline for new manufacturer and importer safety data sheets (SDS) and labels to 1 June 2018 and the deadline for distributors to 1 September. It has left the employer deadline at 1 December.
Speaking at the Society for Chemical Hazard Communication (SCHC) conference in Arlington, Va., Rosslynn Miller-Lee, Director of Health Canada's Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau, made it clear that the agency did not plan on letting the deadlines shift further. "This miracle will not happen again," she said
The agency plans to propose an amendment to the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) that would allow manufacturers to report a broad range, instead of a specific concentration, of an ingredient if the concentration can be defended as confidential business information (CBI), Ms Miller-Lee said. The proposed schedule of concentration ranges will be published for public comment.
A review process for CBI claims
The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA) sets out a review process for CBI claims. But because the previous labelling rules allowed manufacturers to avoid specifying chemical concentrations, they used that flexibility to protect the information, avoiding the application process and associated fee, Ms Miller-Lee said.
With the new rules on the horizon, CBI claims went from 423 in 2015-16 to 1,312 in 2016-17. Another 707 have been submitted since April. However, submissions essentially ceased after the delay was announced in June.
Ms Miller-Lee said the pending change will not allow manufacturers to continue avoiding the CBI process. "In order to protect concentration ranges you must use the CBI protection mechanism. This discussion is about concentration, not identity".
Ms Miller-Lee said the agency will wait until after implementation to address labour group demands that manufacturers should not be allowed to avoid disclosing the presence of carginogens, mutagens, reproductive toxicants and respiratory sensitisers. They also want the labelling rules to apply to some consumer products.
The first change would require a legislative amendment to HMIRA. Applying labelling to consumer products would require a regulatory amendment.
"The concern is that workers could be exposed to consumer products in a different way and SDS are not provided," Ms Miller-Lee said.
"We are at the beginning of this conversation, so I can't say much. What I can say for sure is that no changes will be made to the regulations until we complete the transition period," she said. "We want to be sure everyone knows how to comply with the regulations as they are before we start changing them."
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