Focus-on-deadlines-ERA-EnvironmentalIn our last blog article in this series, we examined how the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) may present difficulties for American companies, especially in terms of SDS use.

    For this piece, we’ll take an informed look at the various deadlines that will signpost Canada’s transition, giving you the best possible overview of this complex changeover. You’ll learn which GHS deadlines affect your business, and what to should expect over the coming months.

    What's Informing the Deadlines?

    There are a few vital legislative transitions that dictate the deadlines that are being laid upon companies as part of this GHS transition.

    As it stands, Canadian businesses, by and large, refer to WHMIS 1988 for the labeling of chemicals. This is a much-utilized set of regulations that has been in use for almost 30 years. It represents a comprehensive way in which to cover all the required Health & Safety needs in Canadian businesses, promoting the safe and responsible use and labeling of all and any hazardous chemicals.

    With Canada’s move towards the full adoption of GHS, this system was "refreshed" through new legislation, known as WHMIS 2015.

    While this is largely the same body of regulations, it crucially emphasizes the use of the SDS format, which replaces the older MSDS format.

    The Key Dates

    Below are the key dates, broken down by industry segment, that govern the GHS adoption.


    In the short term, the most prominent date approaching is that of June 1, 2017, when manufacturers and importers of hazardous chemicals will be expected to make the transition to WHMIS 2015.

    According to legislation, before this deadline, manufacturers, or those companies that make, sell or import hazardous products, can still utilize the older WHMIS 1988 or adopt the newer WHMIS 2015 set of regulations.

    Full use of WHMIS 2015 across every organization in these three groupings is scheduled for December 1, 2018. However, there may be some provincial legislation that will be pertinent and still in use at that point.

    Importance of your Industry Segment

    Timelines for the GHS transition in Canada has been broken down amongst three different groups. They are: 

    1. Manufacturers and Importers.
    2. Distributors.
    3. Workplace Employers.

    This division represents the considerations that Canada has taken as regards the applicability of the regulations.

    Workplace employers (those who employ more than one employee) are being granted a greater degree of leeway in their utilization of older legislation – a logical move considering their position further down the supply chain and further from the specialised production of hazardous chemicals.

    The need for quicker implementation of the WHMIS format amongst manufacturers and importers is clear from the published deadlines. This is the industry segment that will bear increased responsibility as to the applicability of the new system.

    The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, responsible for promoting safe conduct within Canadian workplaces, confirmed the important 1 June 2017 deadline, and suggested that this should be a “smooth transition”.

    Given the relatively ample time between transitions, the regulatory authorities appear to viewing this as sufficient time for companies to get their affairs in order.

    GHS Deadline Enforcement

    It’s as yet unclear exactly what enforcement actions that Health Canada will take for those companies that do not adhere to the transition, and continue to utilise other SDS standards in their interactions with Canadian businesses.

    It is possible this could range from recommendations, to directives, to possible fines for consistent non-compliance.

    A request to Health Canada for clarification on the exact penalties that companies in non-compliance can expect was still pending at the time of writing. The suggested logic is to follow the general federal pattern for regulatory enforcement - which starts soft, before progressing to sharper measures.

    Many companies cannot afford any sustained penalties. There are potential banana skins in the form of policy differences between the US and Canada that even adoption of the GHS across both countries cannot fully take care of.

    The right system is needed in the case of the modern producer: utilizing the right SDS at any given point in time, with full confidence in its effectiveness and validity.

    Completely effective SDS Authoring and Management is the way in which to achieve this. Revision remains a challenge as legislative changes abound.


    This Blog was Co-Authored By: 


    Lorcan Archer
    Post by Lorcan Archer
    September 27, 2016
    Lorcan is a science writer and journalist with ERA.