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Environmental and Workplace Health

Classification

Classification - Overview

A product which falls within any of the hazard criteria set out in Part IV of the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) is a WHMIS "controlled product" and, unless exempt under Section 12 of the Hazardous Products Act (HPA), is subject to the MSDS and labelling requirements of the HPA.

To determine if a product is included in one or more WHMIS classes, the supplier must use the procedures set out in section 33 of the CPR. The portion of the Reference Manual corresponding to section 33 provides guidance on the use of structure-activity relationships, sufficiency of evidence, weight of evidence and classification of mixtures. Guidance on the use of professional judgement is provided below.

Paragraph 19(1)(d) of the CPR establishes a direct correlation between the WHMIS classification and the symbol(s) which must be depicted on the label. The classification can also provide guidance as to what information should be disclosed on the MSDS and label and what information should be communicated to workers through education and training.

There is no legal requirement to disclose the WHMIS classification on the MSDS nor label. However, if it is company policy to disclose such information, then all of the WHMIS classifications into which the product falls must be disclosed. For Classes B and D, if it is company policy to disclose the division and subdivision(s), then all or the applicable subclassification must be disclosed.

Links to Applicable Acts and Regulations:

Links are provided on the "Publications" page under "Acts and Regulations"

Testing Requirements

Neither the HPA nor the CPR impose a legal requirement to test materials to determine the WHMIS classification. As a fundamental principle, during the development of WHMIS, all stakeholders agreed that nothing in the hazard criteria, nor any part of WHMIS, would require additional toxicological testing. Rather, WHMIS was designed to make the best use of existing toxicological data. There is, however, an implicit requirement to conduct testing to respect the MSDS ingredient disclosure requirements stipulated in Section 13 of the HPA if this information is not known to the supplier/importer of a WHMIS controlled product.

Regarding physical hazards, in the absence of test results on the product or test results on a product with similar properties to classify the product, a supplier must recognize that if the supplier sells the product and has classified it as not meeting the criterion and the product does in fact meet the criterion, the supplier will be in violation of the law.

Professional Judgement, Use Of In Classification

The following guidelines on the use of professional judgement were developed by a tripartite technical subcommittee and endorsed by the WHMIS Current Issues Committee, a committee comprised of representatives of suppliers, employers organized labour and federal, provincial and territorial governments; (see "Administration & Consultation" page on this site for the CIC terms of reference).

A supplier who intends to sell or import a product for use in a workplace in Canada must classify his product to decide if it is a WHMIS controlled product and therefore subject to WHMIS requirements. In classifying a product the supplier must consider all of the criteria listed in Part IV of the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR). Prior to classifying a product, the supplier may want to consider if the product is exempt from WHMIS requirements under section 12 of the Hazardous Products Act.

The extent to which professional judgement is used by the supplier will depend on the specific criteria being considered. Because of this, the discussion of professional judgement will be focussed under the different kinds of criteria.

  1. Non-toxicological Criteria that Define the Limits for a Measurable Product Property when Subjected to a Specific Test Method which includes CPR sections 34 (d), 37, 38, 39 (c), 40, 65 (a):

    A hierarchical approach to the consideration of test results should be used. The approach is described below.
    1. Use test results on the product carried out in accordance with the specified test methods (either by conducting the test or using available test results). Professional judgement may be required to interpret results where, for example, there are varying test results for a product that has been subjected to the same specified test method.
    2. In the absence of test results referred to in (1), use test results on the product from relevant but non-specified test methods. Professional judgement must be used with these results to classify the product.
    3. In the absence of test results referred to in (1) or (2), where appropriate, extrapolate test results on a product with similar properties to classify the product. Professional judgement must be used to carry out such an extrapolation.
    4. In the absence of being able to classify a product by steps (1), (2) or (3) above, a supplier must recognize that if the supplier sells the product and has classified it as not meeting the criterion and the product does in fact meet the criterion, the supplier will be in violation of the law.
  2. Toxicological Criteria that Define the Limits for a Measurable Product Property when Subjected to a Specific Test Method which includes CPR sections 46, 49, 52, 53, 55 (b), 57 (1) (b), 59, 60, 61 (a), 62, 65 (b) 66 (c):

    A supplier must use a hierarchical approach to the consideration of test results as shown in steps (1) to (4) below or the approach shown in (5) below.
    1. Use test results on the product carried out in accordance with the specified test methods (either by conducting the test or using available test results). Professional judgement may be required to interpret results where, for example, there are varying test results for a product that has been subjected to the same specified test method.
    2. In the absence of test results referred to in (1), use test results on the product from relevant but non-specified test methods. Professional judgement must be used with these results to classify the product. Examples of relevant test methods are given in CPR paragraph 33 (3) (b).
    3. In the absence of test results referred to in (1) or (2), where appropriate, extrapolate test results on a product with similar properties to classify the product. Professional judgement must be used to carry out such an extrapolation. (Although suppliers are not obliged, they are encouraged to make use of available quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) systems to estimate the toxic effects of chemicals. Professional judgement is required to assess the value of such estimates.)
    4. For Class D criteria, if it is not possible to classify a product by steps (1), (2) or (3), a supplier is not required to undertake toxicological testing. The product can be considered as not meeting a Class D criterion, if the supplier has no "information of which the supplier is aware or ought reasonably to be aware". Every supplier "ought reasonably to be aware" of appropriate published literature. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) is one organization capable of conducting a comprehensive literature search. When additional information is made available to the supplier by the appropriate regulatory agencies, by industry or trade association(s), and by labour organization(s), the supplier is expected to evaluate that information.
    5. OR
    6. For Class D criteria, a supplier may use an alternate strategy in place of steps (1) to (4) above. A supplier may undertake a search of information he "ought reasonably to be aware of" (as in (4) above). If the supplier finds "sufficient" human data to show that the product meets or does not meet a criterion, the supplier may use this information to classify the product. Professional judgement must be used in making an assessment of what is "sufficient" in each case and taking into account animal test results.

  3. Criteria that Define the Limits for a Measurable Property or Qualitative Characteristic of a Product without Specifying a Test Method which includes CPR sections 34 (a) (b) (c), 36, 39 (a) (b), 41, 42, 66 (a) (b) (c):

    None of these CPR criteria relate to Class D and therefore the supplier is obliged to use the direction provided in CPR subsection 33 (1) (b).

    For the above criteria other than sections 39 (b) and 66 (a) (c), the use of professional judgement in classification is addressed in I(2) and (3) above.

    For sections 39 (b) and 66 (a) (c), it is clear the professional judgement must be used to decide if the qualitative criteria properly describe the properties of the product.
  4. Criteria which State that "There is Evidence" of a Physiological Effect, without Specifying a Test Method which includes CPR sections 55 (a), 56, 57 (1) (a), 61 (b), 64, 65 (e):

    The supplier must use professional judgement to decide if test results or studies on the product signify "evidence" of an effect. This would include giving consideration to the particulars of the test method or study and the relevance of the results or conclusions in the occupational situation. There is nothing in the CPR to prevent a supplier from over-classifying a product.

    Where the supplier finds "evidence" that the product meets a criterion and also finds "evidence" to the contrary, the supplier must consider the product as meeting the criterion for the purpose of classification. The supplier may make reference to the contrary evidence on the MSDS, but such disclosure must be done in accordance with the qualifications referred to in section 13 of the CPR.

    Where a supplier cannot find test results, conclusions from a study or other evidence on the product for one of these criteria, the supplier is not required to test the product but may assume, for the purposes of classification, that the product does not meet that criterion.
  5. Criteria for Carcinogenicity - CPR section 54

    There is no opportunity to use professional judgement in the classification of carcinogens when the substance or tested mixture is included in the referenced lists. The WHMIS criteria for carcinogens apply only to products or substances, not to processes listed by IARC or ACGIH, such as "antimony trioxide production" or "manufacture of magenta".

    Where a substance or tested mixture does not appear on the referenced lists and the supplier has information to show that the product may be a carcinogen, the supplier should use professional judgement to decide if the product should be classified as carcinogenic. While it is required that such information be disclosed on the MSDS of a product, a classification of the product as carcinogenic would not be required by WHMIS legislation.
  6. Criteria that Refer to Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR) Criteria which includes CPR sections 39 (d), 47, 50, 65 (c) (d):

    The referenced TDG criteria are of the type referred to in III above or, in the case of section 65, of the type referred to in IV above. The same appropriate rules for the use of professional judgement apply to these criteria.

    In addition to containing scientific criteria, the TDGR contains a list of specified dangerous goods in Schedule II with designated primary classifications. If a product is listed in Schedule II to the TDGR as meeting one of the referenced TDG criterion, the supplier cannot use professional judgement to decide that the product does not meet that criterion.

    Suppliers should be cautious when reading the TDG classification in Schedule II. TDG prioritizes the hazards and only lists the most severe hazard in Schedule II. Thus, when assessing a product against a particular TDG criterion, a supplier should first refer to the Schedule II list and, where the product is not listed as meeting the criterion, also refer to the TDG criterion in the TDG Regulations before concluding the product does not meet the criterion.
  7. Criteria for Ingredients in a Product that is an Untested Mixture which includes CPR sections 48, 51, 58, 63, 65 (f):

    The same rules for use of professional judgement that applied when deciding if a tested product meets a criterion will apply when deciding if an ingredient is a controlled product.
  8. Note: The WHMIS legislation does not prohibit a supplier from including a product in any WHMIS class, division or subdivision even though it does not strictly meet the hazard criteria in the CPR. However, suppliers should avoid including products that are clearly beyond the scope of the hazard criteria that define a class. Otherwise, the overall effectiveness of WHMIS in accurately warning workers of the hazards inherent in workplace products will be diminished.

    If a supplier's product falls just outside the criteria which define any class, a supplier may use professional judgement to decide that the product should nonetheless be included in the class.

Hazard Criteria

Following is an alphabetical listing of hazard criteria specified in the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) and the applicable sections of the CPR. The CPR do not specify criteria for aquatic toxicity nor criteria specifically dedicated to endocrine disruption.

Toxicological Hazards ("Endpoints")
Endpoint Pure Substance / Tested Mixture Untested Mixture
acute toxicity CPR 46, 47 and 49 CPR 48 and 51
biohazardous infectious CPR 64 CPR 64
carcinogenicity CPR 54 CPR 58
chronic toxicity CPR 52 and 59 CPR 58 and 63
corrosion CPR 65 CPR 65(f)
embryo toxicity CPR 53 CPR 58
irritation, skin or eye CPR 60 CPR 63
mutagenicity CPR 57 CPR 58
reproductive toxicity CPR 55 CPR 58
sensitization, respiratory tract CPR 56 CPR 58
sensitization, skin CPR 61 CPR 63
teratogenicity CPR 53 CPR 58
Physical Hazards ("Endpoints")
Endpoint Product, Material or Substance
combustible liquids CPR section 38
compressed gases CPR section 34
corrosion CPR section 65
flammable aerosols CPR section 40
flammable gases CPR section 36
flammable liquids CPR section 37
flammable reactive CPR section 41
flammable solids CPR section 39
oxidizing CPR section 42
reactivity CPR section 66

Sources of WHMIS Classifications

Some of the following hyperlinks are to sites of organizations or other entities that are not subject to the Next link will take you to another Web site Official Languages Act. The material found there is therefore in the language(s) used by the sites in question.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) - The CHEMINFO database provides detailed evaluation of chemical substances including the WHMIS classification. There may be fees associated with the use of some of the databases www.ccinfoweb.ccohs.ca or general information at www.ccohs.ca

Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, Service du répertoire toxicologique - The Répertoire toxicologique's Web site provides information on chemical products used in the workplace including WHMIS classification. This information allows employers and workers to have a better knowledge of the health and safety risks associated with these products, thereby promoting the putting in place of appropriate prevention methods. The Next link will take you to another Web site classification can be consulted by english names or CAS numbers at this address: http://www.reptox.csst.qc.ca/SIMDUT.htm
1199, de Bleury, 4th Floor,
C.P. 6056, Succ. Centre-ville,
Montréal (Québec), Canada
H3C 4E1
phone: 514-906-3080; reptox@csst.qc.ca ; www.reptox.csst.qc.ca (Next link will take you to another Web site répertoire toxicologique)

Publications

  • "The Evaluation and Hazard Classification of Toxicological Information for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Material Safety Data Sheets", Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 27, 61-74 (1998); Rosanne Côté, Hugh Davis, Colleen Dimock, Mary Korpan, Ken Loewen, and Lawrence Segal.
  • "Substances Identified as Teratogens, Mutagens, Carcinogens" published by the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail, Service du répertoire toxicologique, Case postale 1056, Succursale postale Desjardins, Montréal (Québec) Canada H5B 1C2; tél (514) 873-6374; reptox@disst.qc.ca
  • "Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Classification - A [February 22, 1988] Workshop"; Next link will take you to another Web site Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), CCOHS No. P88-13E, ISBN 0-660-12955-8, tel. (905) 572-2981; www.ccohs.ca

Related Sites (which Can Assist With Classification)