Mr. Speaker, I am especially pleased to speak to Bill S-2, since the area of hazardous materials was my concern for several years in my career as a health and safety engineer for Hydro-Québec. I even brought with me the guide my colleagues and I prepared on managing hazardous materials.
The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act is governed by a board. This large board is made up of 18 members, including 2 workers, a supplier, an employer, a federal government representative and 4 to 13 representatives from the provinces and territories.
This large board is part of the framework of WHMIS, which stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. WHMIS participants and stakeholders can be divided into four main categories. First are the suppliers and manufacturers. Next are the workers who handle the products. Third are the employers or industries that purchase the products. Finally, there are the provincial, territorial and federal governments that monitor the system.
WHMIS, the information system, must provide workers with all the health and safety information they need to handle hazardous materials without any risk to themselves, their neighbours, friends or colleagues, and in order to avoid all dangerous situations for pregnant women.
Information on the use of hazardous materials in the workplace is provided in two ways. First, information appears on the label. All containers must have an identification label. If a label identifying a product is damaged, covered or illegible, the worker has the right to refuse to handle the container and its contents, and can have the contents verified by the manufacturer, if the manufacturer is identified on the label. Otherwise, the product is disposed of in a safe manner.
The second is the material safety data sheet, which must be kept in a catalogue accessible to everyone at all times. It is important to emphasize “at all times”. Regular drills must be conducted to verify the storage location of the binder or catalogue. The MSDS must also be kept up to date and must be accessible to workers. This means the catalogue or MSDS cannot be locked up in a supervisor's office or someone else's office. All of these details must be discussed regularly during mandatory workplace health and safety meetings.
Careful attention must be paid to making new employees aware of health and safety regulations because they must know where catalogues are located and be familiar with all of the products they will be using in the workplace.
What information does the MSDS provide? First of all, it lists dangerous ingredients and, if applicable, toxic products. Second, it details the health and safety risks associated with using the product. Third, it describes product-handling precautions. Fourth, it recommends the first aid to be given in cases of accidental exposure, such as ingestion, skin contact or inhalation.
Anyone who cares about the environment will be careful when disposing of large quantities of these products and will know how to respond appropriately in case of accidental spills in sewer or storm drains or in sensitive environments, such as lakes and reservoirs, wetlands or other vulnerable ecosystems.
Bill S-2 proposes three changes. I have read the speeches given by the senator and other senators during debate in the Senate. I hope that there will be no questions insinuating that I have cribbed from the senators.
Trade secrets represent the first major change. In my opinion, there has to be a certain balance between the right of workers and employers to have complete information about the use of hazardous products and the industry’s right to protect trade secrets, patents, contents and components, which competitors could use to their advantage.
The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission will therefore have the power to grant exemptions to protect genuine trade secrets of manufacturers and distributors of hazardous products. The commission will review claims for exemption. As well, the required health and safety documents will be filed, and manufacturers will also be asked to provide documents of an economic nature. Those measures will protect the confidentiality of the information and will also eliminate the financial consequences of disclosure of the documents.
The second amendment to the existing act allows for voluntary correction of material safety data sheets and labels where the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission determines that they do not comply with the act. This is a new procedure. There is also a third amendment proposed in the bill, to improve the appeal process.
The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill S-2 and believes that when it comes to hazardous materials it is crucial to keep worker safety in mind. We also believe that this essential effect must be the basis of all decisions made. The Bloc Québécois notes that there is unanimous support for the amendments to the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act set out in Bill S-2 among the members of the commission’s governing council, that is, among the participants I identified earlier: industry, workers and governments.
The Bloc Québécois supports Bill S-2 so that the amendments that the leading stakeholders in those groups have called for can be enacted. In everything it does, the Bloc Québécois seeks to protect working men and women, and that is why it has introduced Bill C-257 to ban the use of replacement workers. There is also a bill on preventive reassignment on the order paper, the purpose of which is to provide women in Quebec who work in undertakings under federal jurisdiction with the same benefits in respect of preventive reassignment as other working women in Quebec.
A third bill, Bill C-269, to improve the employment insurance system, is one such law that affects working men and women. I would remind you that the Bloc Québécois also had the throne speech amended to incorporate an income support program for older workers.
The Bloc Québécois will be supporting Bill S-2.