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National Office of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System
Pan-Canadian WHMIS Hazard Communication Symposium
February 8 & 9, 2007
Ottawa, Canada
Workshop A: Primary Prevention of Occupational Chronic Disease
Workshop B: WHMIS MSDS Compliance Working Group
Workshop C: MSDS Quality
Workshop A
Primary Prevention of Occupational Chronic Disease
Facilitator: Gary Liss
Moderator: Larry Stoffman
Reporter: Shelley Gray
Objective:Discuss the possible role of hazard communication in supporting the primary prevention of chronic disease arising through occupational exposure.
  • Research – more research to know where exposures to chronic hazards are actually occurring and why they are occurring (to focus efforts).
  • Recognition - better recognition of chronic occupational disease by the medical community.
  • Knowledge – close the gap between hazard communication and hazard control for chronic hazards.
  • Supervisors & Managers - we need to determine how to get supervisors and managers to focus on health and safety issues {especially issues of chronic toxicity which aren’t as readily apparent as acute hazards}.
  • Young workers – young workers could be a special focus.  We could make a special effort to increase the awareness of long-term health effects among young workers
What activities can be undertaken through hazard communication in order to prevent chronic diseases arising through occupational exposures?

Activities that could be undertaken to help resolve some of the issues identified include:
  • Curriculum and Education - develop curriculum and education for primary care providers.  Package information and get it to them.  Develop training and educational modules.
  • Partnerships/Joint Projects - investigate possible partnerships. Governments and associations could work on joint projects.  For example:
    1. Target industries or processes based on exposure reports (existing issues) and emerging issues.
    3. Jointly hold symposiums, meetings and educational sessions to focus on specific hazards or chemicals, e.g. Newfoundland and Labrador held meetings on the hazards of styrene in boat building. A forum involving all stakeholders (including boat-building industry, suppliers and government inspectors) was held to educate on topics like what inspectors are looking for, the hazards of the chemicals used, how they can be used safely.  A non-confrontational forum was held, and then the government started inspections.  The level of improvement was significant.  The recommendation is to target an area and focus efforts.
  • Chemical Management Systems - Promotion of chemical management plans at industry and the worksite level.  Share best practices; hold symposiums; consider awards (although consensus was NOT reached on awards, as some members of the group felt that people should not be awarded for doing what they are required to do by law).
Can stakeholders provide tools, training, etc. to support primary prevention?

Tools that may help to resolve some of the issues identified
  • MSDS Summary Sheet
    Build a tool to distill MSDS information into a usable format for the supervisors/workers etc.  Plain language.  Make it real. Make it simple.  This document would not replace but would be a supplement to an MSDS. [some concerns were raised re: regulatory requirement, responsibility? availability on the worksite? ]
  • Hierarchy of Controls
    Investigate/encourage regulatory changes for jurisdictions that don't have requirements for the "hierarchy of controls – elimination, substitution, engineering controls etc."
  • Occupational Disease/Cause List
    Develop and provide access to a list of occupational chronic diseases and chemical causes that is available to the stakeholders.
  • E-learning
    Develop information resources including e-learning tools to inform supervisors, workers and inspectors of the chronic effects of certain classes of chemicals, industries and exposures of concern.
  • Best Practices
    Compile and organize best practices in chemical hazard management.  Holding symposia could publicize the availability of these best practicedocuments.  The focus should be on a specific concern e.g. beryllium.

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Workshop B
WHMIS MSDS Compliance Working Group
Facilitator: Lorraine Davison
Moderator: Martin Nicholas
Reporter: Dan Clarke
Objective:Discuss the possible need for a WHMIS MSDS Compliance Working Group and the role of the group in identifying strategies to improve the quality of hazard information and the effectiveness of the hazard communication system.
What are the important gaps in the Canadian WHMIS compliance system that need to be addressed?

Training and Education
  • Problems transferring hazard information into risk mitigation in the workplace.
  • People don’t have basic knowledge to read and understand MSDS.
  • Need to enable employer site-specific training.
  • WHMIS Training curricula, criteria are not nationally established.
  • Requirements for WHMIS trainers don’t exist, do we need national standards?
  • MSDS are poorly formatted and written, hard to understand
  • Is there a need for clear language MSDS?
  • MSDS software providers don’t always comply and can impact many MSDS.
  • Lack of MSDS harmonization of updates with US means non-compliance.
  • Priority concern is not necessarily the quality of content but application in the workplace.
Product Labels
  • Hazard communication not risk communication – titanium dioxide.
  • Labels are poor and don’t provided adequate information for risk mitigation.
MSDS Repository
  • Problems in supplying and distributing MSDS, increase costs to employers and suppliers. Central repository would save money and improve efficiency.
  • F/P/T communication – gap still exists though some improvements
What is the key purpose of the Working Group? What are the priority areas for the Working Group?

  • There was no consensus for the formation of the Working group.
  • There were concerns about the timing of new activities in light of the GHS timetable.
  • Existing groups may already have roles consistent with some activities.
  • Some discussion re: role as advisory committee to enable NOW office activities.
  • Regulatory bodies concerned about potential implications on provinical resources should increased enforcement be required. If this is an issue then it would be appropriate to reopen the MOUs with F/P/T.
  • Suggestion that if the goal is to raise the profile of WHMIS the federal minister of Health present to the Labour Ministers meeting.

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Workshop C
MSDS Quality
Facilitator: Dennis Nikkel
Moderator: Bob Whiting
Recorders: Gisèle Proulx and Sylvain Malo
Reporter: Dennis Nikkel
Objective:Discuss approaches to improve MSDS quality. Identify potential resources and activities to improve hazard communication and to support compliance.
Questions 1-4:
How can participants in the system help to improve MSDS quality? (participants such as manufacturers, suppliers, employers, workers and regulators.)
What strategies can help Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs)?
What issues are most important with respect to MSDS quality for different stakeholders such as writers, users and regulators?
What information resources are most important to support and improve MSDS quality and WHMIS compliance? (from different stakeholder perspectives)
The reporter indicated that the workshop discussion was wide-ranging and touched on issues related to all these questions.
  Issues and Recommendations:
  • Improve quality by having proper guidance and proper tools for writing and using MSDS.
  • Make sure WHMIS policies are known by the people who need to know them.
  • In reality, many products come from USA – can initiatives improve these MSDS and impact MSDS in Canada? (Upstream effect).
  • Information is available from many primary manufacturers, CCOHS and other sources but this data is not always provided in appropriate language by suppliers for use in workplaces
  • Attention to the MSDS quality by regulators would result in more competent resources being developed and used in Canada
  • Certification of MSDS writers was suggested as a method of improving quality
  • Many MSDS are too complex for use by workers, so develop guidelines and standardized phrases so language will be more understandable and focused on protection
  • Survey suppliers to ask about the impediments to achieving quality MSDS and determine how to provide support and improve the situation
  • Use a strategic approach - identify the product types that cause the greatest problems and address these using a specific program/solution for those suppliers
  • Culture in the workplace is the most important factor to compliance – encourage company to company mentorship such as that used under the responsible care program
What role can hazard surveillance play?

  • It would assist in determining where to put resources and prioritizing operations
  • A strategy for improving hazard communication through WHMIS – such as publicizing the changes to classification for Titanium Dioxide – would assist in keeping issues at the forefront.

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