Globally Harmonized System Compliance


Compliance with the Globally Harmonized System Between the US and Canada

Within the last five years, the US and Canada have updated health and safety-related legislation to require compliance with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication standard was revised to align with GHS; the revision is commonly referred to as HCS 2012. In Canada, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) revised the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) to align with GHS; the revision is commonly referred to as WHMIS 2015 or the Hazardous Product Regulations (HPR). The US standard is now in full effect with June 1, 2016, as the last date of required compliance. However, some of the WHMIS 2015 is just now becoming regulatory requirements. There may some compliance issues if companies are HCS 2012-compliant but not yet WHMIS 2015-compliant. Therefore, Canadian companies importing items from the US may find that US-compliant labeling and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) will not comply with the WHMIS 2015/HPR requirements. Here are examples of the differences in the two standards.

US HCS 2012
Canada WHIMS 2015/HPR
Phase 1 – AwarenessN/AMay 31, 2017
Phase 2 – ManufacturersN/AMay 31, 2018
Phase 3 – Manufacturers and DistributorsN/ANovember 30, 2018
Full Compliance – Manufacturers, Distributors, and EmployersJune 1, 2016December 1, 2018
Bilingual Labels and SDSsLabels must be in EnglishLabels and SDSs must be in both English and French (subsection 6.2(1) of the HPR).This information may appear on a single bilingual SDS or on two separate unilingual documents that constitute one bilingual SDS. The same applies to labels (subsection 6.2(2) of the HPR).
Supplier IdentifierThe name, address and telephone number of the U.S. manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party must appear on the label and SDS.A Canadian supplier identifier must appear on the label and SDS (subsection 3(1) and item 1(d) of Schedule I of the HPR).A Canadian distributor may omit the name of the initial supplier if they list their own identity (name, address and telephone number) instead (section 5.8 of the HPR).

A Canadian importer may retain the name of the foreign supplier instead of replacing it with their own identity only if the hazardous product is imported for use in their own work place (section 5.9 of the HPR).

Mixture containing a Category 2 carcinogen at a concentration between 0.1 – 1.0%All mixtures containing a carcinogenic ingredient (whether Category 1 or 2) at a concentration of 0.1% or more are required to have an SDS.All mixtures containing a Category 1 carcinogen at 0.1% or more, or a Category 2 carcinogen at 1% or more must have a label.

Mixtures containing a Category 2 carcinogen at a concentration between 0.1% and 1% are not required to have a label, that is, a label warning is optional for such mixtures.

All mixtures containing a carcinogenic ingredient (whether Category 1 or 2) at a concentration of 0.1% or more are required to have label as well as an SDS (sections 8.6.3 and 8.6.4 of the HPR).
Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (PHNOC)/Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HHNOC) vs. Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC)No label elements required for HNOC. For a mixture that contains an HNOC ingredient at a concentration of 1% or more, there is no requirement to disclose the chemical name or concentration of the HNOC ingredient on the SDS.Label elements are required for PHNOC and HHNOC (paragraph 3(1)(d) of the HPR).For mixtures that contain an HHNOC ingredient at a concentration of 1% or more, information relating to the HHNOC ingredient, including its chemical name and concentration or concentration range, must be disclosed on the SDS (item 3(2) of Schedule I of the HPR).
Biohazardous Infectious Materials (BIM)No hazard class for biohazardous infectious materials since these materials in the workplace are not regulated by US HCS 2012.A hazard class for BIM is included and products that meet the criteria for this hazards class must be appropriately labelled. Also, besides the standard SDS, there is a requirement for an appendix that provides information specific to the BIM (subsection 4(3), subpart 11 of Part 8 and Schedule 2 of the HPR).
Water-Activated ToxicantsA supplemental hazard statement is required on the SDS if substances that release a toxic gas upon contact with water are present in the workplace in such a manner that employees may be exposed under normal conditions of use or in a foreseeable emergency.Supplemental hazard statement required on the label and SDS indicating that, the product releases gases in contact with water that are fatal/ toxic/harmful if inhaled (paragraph 3(1)(f) of the HPR).
Updating of SDS and label informationChemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, and employers are allowed a period of 3 months to update SDSs with new information and 6 months to update labels.There is no requirement for a written notice providing the significant new information for importation or sale occurring within the 3 month or 6 month period.Suppliers and importers are allowed a period of 90 days to update SDSs with new data and 180 days to update labels. If a hazardous product is sold or imported within 90 days after significant new data became available, the new data is not required to be included on the SDS so long as a written notice providing the new data and the date upon which it became available is transmitted to the purchaser of the product, or obtained or prepared where the product is imported (section 5.12 of the HPR).The same applies also to labels, except that the corresponding period is 180 days.
Labels on multi-container shipmentsOnly the innermost container is required to be labelled.The outer container does not need to be labelled.Where a hazardous product is packaged in more than one container, each container must be fully labelled, unless: (a) the small capacity container (≤ 100 mL) exemption applies (subsection 5.4(1) of the HPR); or (b) one of the outer container exemptions applies (section 5.2 of the HPR).
Labels on kit outer containersOnly the inner containers are required to be labelled. The outer container of a kit does not need to be labelled.Outer container of a kit (containing at least two different hazardous products) must be labelled.There is an exemption that allows reduced information on the outer container label, as long as a special statement referring the user to the individual product labels for signal words, hazard statements and precautionary statements is provided on the outer container label (section 5.3 of the HPR).


To find out more information about Globally Harmonized System Compliance, please contact Keith Green.
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