Canada, U.S. take step toward regulatory harmonization

WASHINGTON (CP) — The Canadian and American governments have announced a new step toward constantly co-ordinating their regulatory environments across a broad range of industries, including occupational health and safety.
Federal agencies will work with their cross-border counterparts to produce, within six months, public statements explaining how they'll work with industry, and each other, to simplify regulations for businesses operating in both countries.

The process will involve two-dozen areas including: occupational safety, rail safety, marine safety, aviation and hazardous materials safety, according to a document released Aug. 29.

On the occupational health and safety front, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. and Health Canada will work together to co-ordinate the adoption of future updates of the Globally Harmonized System for Classification and Labelling of Workplace Chemicals (GHS) to facilitate common approaches and synchronized implementation.

"This includes developing a mechanism to maintain alignment as the system is updated and modernized or new requirements or standards are put in place, exploring innovative methods to jointly engage stakeholders as well as enhanced collaboration on common interpretation and guidance materials," said the document.

Natural Resources Canada and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in the U.S. will work to align and promote the safe management of explosive materials including classification requirements (TDG Class 1). This will include explosives classification approvals issued by either party.

"Efforts will be made to align test procedures in order to reduce discrepancies in explosives classification for producers and to align labelling information in order to ensure consistent outcomes in occupational health and safety," said the report.

When it comes to rail safety, the governments will put the necessary processes and protocols in place to co-ordinate joint development of regulatory standards focused on existing and emerging railway safety issues such as train control systems and fatigue management.

The 44-page document released by the White House and Canada's Privy Council Office said the goal was to make co-operation a permanent and ongoing process, while future policies are being developed.

"The long-term goal is to have bilateral regulatory co-operation within the regular planning and operational activities of regulatory agencies,'' said the document.

But it insisted each nation would retain the sovereignty to make its own choices. The document said nothing under the initiative, called the Joint Forward Plan, would impose any obligations on either country under domestic or international law.

The process will be overseen, at least initially, by the Regulatory Cooperation Council, created in 2011 by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama.

This article includes files from COS staff.