OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 29 Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

Section 405 Material safety data sheet – employer

If the employer produces a controlled product at the work site that will be used at the work site, the employer must prepare an MSDS that complies with the requirements set out in the Controlled Products Regulations for that product. The exceptions to this are if the controlled product is a fugitive emission or if it is an intermediate in a reaction (a product that is formed and consumed during reaction within the vessel).

If a product is recycled at the work site and its composition/characteristics may change with use, the preparation of an MSDS by the employer will be more complicated. An example of such a situation is where crude petroleum is pumped from the ground and then used and reused as a drilling fluid. Crude petroleum fits the definition of a complex mixture and there are generic MSDSs available for the product. However, the hazardous properties of the product e.g. flash point, vapour pressure, hydrogen sulphide content, benzene content, etc. vary within a wide range from field to field and even within the same oil field.

The use of a generic MSDS may not be specific enough to provide the necessary hazard information to workers. While it is possible that some crude oils will not meet the definition for a controlled product as they do not fall into one or more of the six WHMIS hazard classes, most will because of their flammable or combustible characteristics or their toxic properties. It is therefore assumed that any crude petroleum used at the workplace will be regulated by WHMIS unless the employer or supplier can produce test results showing that their particular crude is not. A generic MSDS will only be acceptable where it is supplemented by hazard information applicable to the specific product at the workplace. For example, if the generic MSDS has a flash point ranging from the flammable to combustible temperatures, it must be supplemented with the actual flash point of the product. The same situation applies to the use and reuse of drilling muds at well sites.

The employer may produce and make readily available a substitute MSDS as long as it contains no less information than the supplier’s MSDS and the supplier’s MSDS is available at the workplace. The advantage of this is the ability to include local regulatory requirements such as exposure limits and the incorporation of information about hazards and control measures specific to circumstances at the work site. The content of the employer MSDS must cover the items specified in section 12 and schedule 1 of the Controlled Products Regulations. The employer may also provide additional information if it is provided on the original supplier’s MSDS or add other hazard information of which the employer is aware regarding the product.

Simplification of the supplier MSDS is acceptable as long as the intent of the supplier’s MSDS is not altered. However, the perceived level of risk may not be reduced. For example, if the supplier reports the results of a number of oral LC50 tests, the employer may summarize the information by reporting the LC50 for the most toxic effect and referring to the fact that the result was one of a series of tests.

If the employer chooses to use a standard format MSDS that displays all of the information items in schedule 1 of the Controlled Products Regulations and the supplier’s MSDS does not provide information for one or more of those items, it is not appropriate to enter the expressions “Not Available” or “Not Applicable” unless the employer has searched reasonably available information sources, including making contact with the supplier, and has confirmed that the expressions apply. Items may not be left blank.

Disclaimer statements provided on supplier MSDSs do not enhance the information provided and need not be reproduced on the employer MSDS. Disclaimer statements that contradict information on the MSDS are prohibited by section 25 of the Controlled Products Regulations, and such statements and any other contradictory information must not be reproduced. The employer must reproduce the Preparation Information provided on the supplier MSDS. The employer MSDS may, but is not required to, show information about who prepared the employer MSDS and the date of preparation. The employer MSDS must indicate that the supplier’s MSDS is available at the workplace.

In some cases, the employer may wish to combine the MSDSs of identical products from more than one supplier to produce a “composite MSDS”. For example, the employer may purchase one chemical from several suppliers. This MSDS must contain all of the information from each of the supplier’s MSDSs. The composite MSDS must include all discrete trade names or other identifiers that appear on the supplier MSDS. The composite MSDS must identify beside each of these the supplier name and telephone number as well as the person responsible for preparing the MSDS and its preparation date. If more than one use is identified on the separate MSDSs, all uses must be reflected on the composite MSDS. Precautionary measures specific to different uses must also be identified in this way. The composite MSDS must meet all the other requirements for the content of an employer-produced MSDS.

Where an employer has produced an MSDS to replace a supplier MSDS, the original supplier MSDS must be located within the company and be available at the work site. This means that the MSDS must be available to workers in hard copy either through an internal mail system, facsimile transmission or through a computer workstation within 24 hours of a request.