In May 2003, Health Canada's National WHMIS Office, in consultation with the Treasury Board Secretariat and Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), Labour Program, conducted a pilot survey to ascertain the degree to which WHMIS has been implemented in selected federal departments and the challenges faced by those departments in implementing this hazard communication program. (The National WHMIS Office serves as the national coordinator for the overall governance and administration of WHMIS in Canada. Also, the Office is the national secretariat for this federal, provincial and territorial government partnership program.)
The survey focused on:
In relation to hazard identification, results of the survey showed that:
Respondents also raised a number of WHMIS related concerns including adequacy of education and training, accuracy of MSDSs, availability of MSDSs in the official language of choice and the inability to obtain WHMIS labels and MSDSs for consumer chemicals even when purchased in bulk. In relation to hazard communication, the survey results showed that only 26% of respondents believe that MSDSs always provide adequate hazard information and only 29% consider supplier labels to be adequate. The pilot study also identified other concerns related to occupational health and safety including, for example, adherence to and adequacy of exposure limits.
Although the study encompassed only selected federally regulated workplaces, the findings may provide a snap shot of deficiencies in workplaces throughout Canada. Accurate and reliable health and safety label and MSDS information is fundamental to ensuring an adequate hazard communication program in the workplace. Failure to do so compromises the ability of workers to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves from the adverse effects of the materials with which they must work. The information gathered through this Pilot Survey could well serve as a model for the development of a more comprehensive nationally consistent survey instrument that could be used by each federal, provincial and territorial WHMIS regulatory authority in Canada.