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U.S. and Canada Align on Workplace Chemical Labeling

The United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently announced that it will continue to work with Health Canada, Canada’s federal health oversight department, toward unifying their workplace chemical classification and labeling systems.

Historically, OSHA’s chemical labeling requirements differed from those in other countries, requiring each chemical to receive a new label and documentation every time it was imported or exported.  In order to ease trade between the two countries while maintaining workplace safety, in 2013 the U.S. and Canada entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in promoting the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (“GHS”).  The goal of the partnership is to develop a single label and safety data sheet to be used in both countries.

In March 2012, OSHA published GHS-compliant revisions to its Hazard Communication Standard. The changes were to be phased in over a four year period.  As of June 1, 2015, chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors must evaluate and classify hazardous chemicals they produce or import using a GHS-compliant safety data sheet.  By December 1, 2015, distributors must ensure that chemical container shipments include GHS-compliant labels.

Health Canada issued similar proposed rules in August 2014, and in February 2015, Canada published a regulation in keeping with the GHS.  The two countries continue to move forward toward full implementation of a common classification system.

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About this Author

Jim Mulhall, Litigation Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law FIrm

Jim Mulhall is the leader of the firm's Products Liability Practice Group and Toxic Torts Team.  Mr. Mulhall concentrates his practice in the areas of asbestos, product liability, toxic torts, and mass tort litigation.  He is the co-chair of the International Dispute Resolution Practice Group in TerraLex.

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