Health and Safety Report
November 2009 - Volume 7, Issue 11

In the News

WHMIS Changes on the Horizonprint this article

Canada's Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is going to change - after remaining essentially unchanged for more than two decades. WHMIS is a comprehensive program for providing information on the hazards and safe use of hazardous materials used in Canadian workplaces.

WHMIS will be implementing the key elements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS was created several years ago to help standardize chemical hazard classification and communication worldwide. Once implemented, hazard information prepared in other countries will be easier to use in Canadian workplaces, as they will generally use the same hazard classification, labelling and data sheet rules. Currently, the WHMIS classification rules, label and MSDS requirements are unique to Canada.

While GHS will be implemented in Canada, it will not actually replace WHMIS. Instead, WHMIS will be modified to incorporate GHS elements. There will be a new set of classification rules, label requirements, and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) requirements (MSDSs will be called SDS). In Europe, GHS is already being implemented, and in the United States, OSHA recently announced proposed regulations.

How GHS will change WHMIS

Classification will be the first area of change. WHMIS will likely:

  • adopt all of the GHS health and physical hazard classes including some hazards new to Canada - aspiration (toxicity due to inhaling a substance into the lung) and specific target organ toxicity - single exposure hazards. However, not all categories (smaller parts) of every GHS class will be adopted.

  • continue to include some hazards that are currently not in the GHS system, such as biohazardous materials.

  • have more specific names for its hazard classes.

  • combine two WHMIS classes (teratogenicity/embryotoxicity and reproductive toxicity) into one new GHS hazard class - reproductive toxicity.

Supplier labels will also change, and will probably have a few new requirements. The most noticeable change will be new pictograms, as well as the use of a signal word - for example: Warning or Danger.

Depending on the hazard class and category, a specific signal word, hazard statement and symbol/pictogram will be required or prescribed, and must appear on the label.

It is still not clear however if the names of hazardous ingredients will be included on the label, or if the WHMIS hatched border will still be required.

SDSs will use a 16-section format. There will be standardized information requirements for each section. The 9-section WHMIS format for MSDSs will no longer be acceptable. Another important change to note is that the product classification and some of the label information will probably be required on the SDS. The SDS updating requirements (every 3 years) may continue to be required.

Roles and responsibilities - little change expected in Canada

The current roles and responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers are not likely to change in any significant way because of GHS. Suppliers will still have to classify hazardous products and prepare SDSs and labels for their customers. What will change is that suppliers will now use the new classification rules, as well as prepare SDSs and labels according to the GHS requirements.

Employers will continue to make sure that their products are labelled, and SDSs are available to workers. Training and education will also continue to be vital to Canada's WHMIS system, as employers must ensure staff are educated and trained properly about the new WHMIS and working safely with products. Workers will still have to learn about WHMIS but will learn about WHMIS and changes due to the adoption of GHS requirements, including new labels, "pictograms" and SDSs. They will continue to participate in training programs so that they know how to protect themselves and their coworkers in the workplace.

When will GHS be adopted in WHMIS?

A clear deadline has not been identified for full implementation but since Canadian regulations often take a year or two to move from initial draft to full implementation, CCOHS expects that it may take Canada until after 2010 or 2011 to see regulations come into force. Canada is likely to use a transition period to implement new requirements and will likely try to harmonize implementation timing with its major trading partners.

What about GHS adoption in the US and EU?

In the United States (U.S.) proposed regulations were published on September 30, 2009. It is not a final rule (the U.S. is accepting comments) but a three-year transition period is proposed for full implementation. The European Union (EU) has published their GHS revised hazard communication rules which will allow for implementation from 2010 to 2015 plus a two-year transition period.


CCOHS offers free resources to help you learn more about GHS and WHMIS after GHS.

Read the OSH Answer fact sheet on the Globally Harmonized System (GHS).

Take the free e-courses:

WHMIS After GHS: An Introduction

WHMIS After GHS: How Suppliers Can Prepare

OSH Answers

Avoid the Pain of Drivingprint this article

It may seem harmless enough, just sitting in or driving a moving vehicle. However anyone who spends a lot of time sitting in a vehicle without changing position or getting out to stretch every hour or two may experience aches, pains and stiffness. This is especially true for people whose work involves driving for long periods of time on a regular basis.

Common injuries and health effects associated with prolonged driving

  • Cramps or spasms in the feet, legs or lower back

  • Pain or discomfort at pressure points on the back, legs and buttocks

  • Poor circulation in the legs and feet

  • Increased chance of low back injury from lifting immediately after driving

  • Increased risk for degeneration of spinal discs and disc damage (herniation)

Causes of injuries or discomfort

The root causes of most injuries from driving can be attributed to sitting for long periods of time and whole-body vibration.

The sitting position flattens out the small of your back, increasing the pressure on the discs in your spine. When you are sitting, your discs may not be able to handle the vibrations from your vehicle. Also, the ligaments in your back that help to hold your spine together as you move can stretch and slacken when you sit for a long time. And they can stay that way for a while, even after you stand. These stresses on your discs and ligaments can increase your risk for back injury.

Whole-body vibration triggers bursts of back muscle activity. This unconscious activity causes neck and back muscles to get tired more quickly, and reduces the support these muscles can give to the spine. Even if the muscles are not working very hard, without rest they will become fatigued which increases the risk of back injury. Exposure to whole body vibration for a long time and the increased disc pressure from sitting can injure your back.

Injuries or discomfort are also caused by:

  • Poor posture - from personal habit, or from an improperly adjusted or fitted seat

  • Stress or tension

  • Holding the gas pedal down for a long time

  • The continuous upper back and neck muscle work that is required to hold the head in position, especially if there is vibration

  • Low frequency whole-body vibration from the moving vehicle or more severe up- and down- vibrations experienced when driving on uneven or bumpy road surfaces.

Workers at risk

People who drive for a living or spend long periods of time sitting in a vehicle are at increased risk for injury. Occupations include truck drivers, ambulance drivers, taxi and bus drivers, delivery people, heavy equipment operators, farmers, forklift operators and anyone who drives for long periods of time on a regular basis.

Tips to help avoid the potential health hazards of driving

  • Adjust your seat and steering wheel to ensure you:

    • can reach the steering wheel without stretching your arms (leave 25 - 30 cm or 10 -12 in. between the steering wheel and your chest (breast bone) for the air bag to deploy if necessary),

    • can press the foot pedals without moving your lower back forward off the seat back,

    • can comfortably reach the controls,

    • have sufficient headroom, and

    • sit high enough to see out the front and side windows and have a good view of the instruments, gauges, and all mirrors.

  • Tilt the seat cushion until your thighs are supported along the full length of the cushion without pressure at the back of your knees.

  • Tilt your seat a notch or two back and forth every 20-30 minutes to change the direction of vibration on your body, if this can be done safely.

  • Keep your suspension system in good working order and, if necessary, add extra padding over your seat to absorb vibration.

  • Use a lumbar support to help you fit the back rest to your back - a rolled up towel in the right place will work just fine.

  • Use good posture - try not to slouch.

  • Stop and take regular rest/stretch breaks for several minutes every hour or two.

More information

Driving and ergonomics fact sheet, OSH Answers from CCOHS

Ergonomics And Driving, from Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers, Inc. (OHWCO)

The International Organization of Standardization (ISO) has published recommended limits for human exposure to whole-body vibration.

Partner News

New Occupational Disease Initiative Unveiled in Newfoundland and Labradorprint this article

Many workers face a wide range of medical conditions that are related to their work, however the connection between work and disease is often not recognized. In October 2009, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC) of Newfoundland and Labrador launched a new occupational disease initiative to provide the Commission with access to the scientific and medical advice and information they need to assess claims and award fair and timely compensation to workers and families impacted by occupational disease.

The WHSCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), a renowned leader in the area of occupational health and safety research. On behalf of the WHSCC, the IRSST will carry out medical and scientific research and offer expert advice on specific subjects relating to occupational diseases. The research projects and expertise will allow the IRSST to obtain relevant scientific data and evidence to support the WHSCC in the timely and effective resolution of claims for occupational disease. For its part, the IRSST will have the opportunity to develop new knowledge that will be beneficial for all those impacted by occupational disease issues.

An Occupational Disease Advisory Panel (ODAP) was created by WHSCC to provide oversight on occupational disease matters and to address the government's action plan. The ODAP and the new partnership with the IRSST allows for the transfer of key medical and scientific knowledge to the WHSCC, health care professionals and other parties in the province, with an interest in occupational disease.

Following an assessment of the occupational disease issues currently being addressed by the WHSCC, the ODAP has approved a medical and scientific review of the literature on various factors related to occupational disease for shipyard workers, which will be completed by the IRSST.

More about the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST)

More about the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (WHSCC)


CCOHS Forum III: Countdown is on to save $100print this article

The months are flying by and the March 2010 date for CCOHS' Forum III: Leading Workplace Change is approaching quickly. Forum III is shaping up to be an exciting event with two days of inspiring speakers, interactive workshops and networking opportunities. This national event is bringing together subject experts, workers, employers, and governments to share their knowledge and experience and provides an opportunity for participants to explore and better understand how leadership in the workplace - at any level - can significantly impact the health and safety needs of workers.

Whether you're new to the world of workplace health and safety or a seasoned safety professional, you have a role to play in providing leadership to affect change at your workplace. Add your voice to this national discussion on workplace health and safety.

The Program

Forum III will kick off with The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Labour presiding over the opening ceremonies. Program sessions will focus on the topics of leadership and the Internal Responsibility System, workplace violence prevention, participatory ergonomics, and multi-generational teams. Simultaneous French language interpretation will be provided for all sessions.

You'll also have the opportunity to gain insight from other organizations at the interactive Innovation Showcase, where examples of workplace health and safety innovation and best practices from across the country will be on display.

Sneak Preview

You can get a feel for the caliber of presentations you will experience at Forum III by listening to the podcasts recorded by two of the Forum's featured speakers, Jim Clemmer and Giselle Kovary.

Listen now:

Earn Certification Maintenance Points

Attendance at Forum III earns you the following points:

  • Board of Canadian Registered safety Professionals (BCRSP) - 1.0 CMP
    (Approval No. 09217)

  • American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) - 1.5 CM points
    (Approval No.09-2427)

  • Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists (CRBOH) - 2 CM points
    (Approval No. 2010-01).

  • Ontario Kinesiology Association (OKA) - 13 primary category CESP points.

  • Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) - While this educational activity is not officially endorsed by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), nurses may claim it as a continuous learning (CL) activity toward renewal of the CNA certification credential if it is related to their nursing specialty. Pre-authorization from the CNA Certification Program is not required. Participants are encouraged to retain a confirmation of attendance.

Plan to attend

CCOHS' Forum III: Leading Workplace Change

March 8 & 9, 2010

Hilton Lac-Leamy, National Capital Region

Visit the Forum III website for information on all the topics and speakers. Register by December 15th to save $100.

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