Health Canada Studies Consumer Product Exclusion Under WHMIS

By March 30, 2021 WHMIS 2015

So, perhaps you get to work today and discover your office door is creaking. A hinge has gotten a bit rusted or bent. You decide to pick up some spray lubricant next time you’re in the hardware store to reduce the squeak.

But wait! These products are compressed gases (aerosols). They may also be flammable and even aspiration hazards. This would mean they’re regulated under Canada’s WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System). So, would using them in the workplace mean that you’ll need a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)? And what about labeling? Consumer products are regulated under the “Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations” (CCCR 2001), and their labels are different from those required by WHMIS. Not to mention training – will you need WHMIS training in order to use this product?

It turns out that the use of consumer-labeled products in the workplace was anticipated as a common occurrence by Health Canada. They also made a reasonable assumption – if these products are safe to use in the home with CCCR labels (but no SDSs), then it’s unlikely that they’d be less safe when used in the workplace. Therefore, they created an “exclusion” or exemption for products classified as hazardous consumer products and labeled under CCCR. This can be found in the Hazardous Products Act(HPA), which normally bans the importation into Canada or sale to Canadian workplaces of hazardous products as defined under WHMIS.

As Health Canada explains,

“As specified in section 12 and Schedule 1 of the HPA, the HPA does not apply to the sale or importation of certain categories of products. These excluded products include consumer products, cosmetics, drugs, explosives, food, medical devices, pest control products, nuclear substances, hazardous waste, manufactured articles, tobacco and tobacco products, and wood and products made from wood. The HPA does not apply to these products (i.e., labeling and SDS requirements) even if they are intended to be used, handled, or stored in Canadian workplaces.”

So, a product labeled for consumer sale can legally be purchased and used in Canadian workplaces without having its labels replaced with WHMIS ones and without a mandatory SDS. Note, however, that this exclusion does not exempt the employer from any necessary training regarding this product, since training is not mandated by the HPA, but by the various federal, provincial, and territorial regulations on hazardous products in the workplace, such as Ontario’s R.R.O. 1990, “Reg. 860: Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS).”

The consumer product exclusion has been around since WHMIS was first implemented back in the late 1980s. However, Health Canada has recently started to take a new look at it. Does it provide adequate protection for workers? Should consumer products be banned from the workplace, or can they co-exist with WHMIS-labeled ones?

To answer these questions, Health Canada has created a survey (open until March 31, 2021), to collect stakeholder views on using, handling, and storing consumer products in the workplace. This will, it is believed, “provide Health Canada with the comprehensive information needed to consider the most effective approach in addressing the consumer product exclusion under the HPA.” If consumer products have an impact in your workplace, consider taking part.

Health Canada is looking at a lot of different options (beyond, of course, that of leaving things as they are):

  • Adopting the US system, where there is flexibility on the label and the international Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS) is not normally used, but an SDS may be required under certain conditions;
  • Adopting the EU (European Union) system of treating consumer and workplace chemicals similar for labeling based on the GHS, but not requiring an SDS if the label contains adequate information;
  • Requiring a GHS-style WHMIS label and SDS for all hazardous consumer and workplace chemicals, whether for workplace or consumer use;
  • Requiring a WHMIS-compliant SDS for all hazardous consumer products, but not a WHMIS label for consumer sale;
  • Requiring a WHMIS SDS for all hazardous consumer products, but only if they are sold to workplaces; or
  • Requiring a label statement on non-WHMIS compliant consumer products that they are not for sale or use within the workplace.

Changing the current system to one with more harmony between WHMIS and the CCCR 2001 might, in the long run, reduce duplication of effort and the confusion about consumer products in the workplace. But in the short term, it may increase costs and create confusion for consumer sales. Will consumers react well to be given an SDS when purchasing consumer products at their local retail outlets? Will they read them or throw them away into our landfills. Would electronic availability be acceptable or put the most vulnerable at more risk than their more tech-savvy compatriots?

If you’re involved in selling or using consumer products, it’s time to let Health Canada know your opinions on issues such as feasibility and cost savings versus expenditures. While the current system has worked well enough, it’s quite possible that there are even better options out there for products that fall into both the consumer and workplace categories. While change won’t happen overnight, it’s clear Health Canada is moving towards rethinking aspects of the regulations that have long gone without change.

Do you have any questions about the consumer product exclusion? Need help determining what labels you need for your multi-market product? Contact ICC Compliance Center here at 888-977-4834 (Canada) or 888-442-9628 (U.S.), and ask for one of our Regulatory Experts. We can help you select the right labeling solutions for your need.

Health Canada Labelling Survey Page
Hazardous Products Act
“Hazardous Products Regulations”
“Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (CCCR 2001)”
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

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Barbara Foster

Barbara Foster

Barbara Foster graduated from Dalhousie University with a Master’s degree in Chemistry and a Bachelor’s degree in Education. As one of ICC Compliance Center’s most senior employees, she has worked in the Toronto office for the past three decades as a Regulatory Affairs Specialist and Trainer. She is fluent in various US, Canadian, and international regulations involving transportation, including TDG, 49 CFR, ICAO, IMDG, and the ADR/RID. She also specializes in the hazard communication standards of OSHA, WHMIS, CCCR, and the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling (GHS). Barbara is the author of ICC’s TDG Clear Language Driver and Handler’s Guide. Currently, she is a participant on the Canadian General Standards Board committee where she creates training standards for transportation of dangerous goods in Canada and is a past Chair of the Dangerous Goods Advisory Council.