Canada Considers Strategy for Protecting Workers from Chemical Exposures

Health Canada (HC), the governmental department focused on improving the health and wellbeing of individuals throughout Canada, is currently seeking public feedback on a proposed strategy for protecting its country’s workforce from dangerous chemical exposures. To aid in this process, it has produced a consultation document that explores possible options and actions for doing so. Here we take a brief look at some of the proposed actions, including the possible integration of key systems to facilitate this effort.


Both the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) are highly important systems that deal with chemical hazards and risks in Canada.

  • WHMIS is a system focused on the classification and communication of chemical safety and hazard information to Canadian employers and their employees.
  • CMP is a Canadian initiative focused on decreasing chemical risks and their potential effects on the country’s population and environment.

While WHMIS and CMP function “in parallel” with each other, little coordination between them currently exists. The Canadian government is considering its strategy as it modernizes CMP. In doing so, it hopes to improve integration between WHMIS and CMP.

Proposed Actions

As noted in HC’s consultation document, two principal actions have been proposed that may aid in the protection of Canadian workers from chemical exposures:

  • Action 1: Creation of a committee to improve chemicals management coordination

    • Potential functions of such a committee could include:
    • Prioritization
    • Development of occupational exposure limits (OELs)
    • Research and monitoring
    • Risk assessment and management
  • Action 2: Integration of WHMIS Program management under CMP

    • Potential activities could include:
    • Strengthening science-based chemical hazard classifications
    • Increasing supplier, employer, and employee understanding of the dangers posed by the use of hazardous chemicals in the workplace
    • Improving, under the Hazardous Products Act, compliance and enforcement footprint

Accessing Vital Information

In its proposal and consideration of potential integration, HC is considering a variety of factors, including the extensive information and valuable experience of the WHMIS program and CMP. The principal goal is the development of a system in which product suppliers can better disclose potential hazard information, and both employers and their employees have information they need to best protect themselves from hazardous chemical exposures.

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