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What are Designated Substances in Ontario?

Written by: Lisa Hallsworth

Published on: 8 March 2017

Updated: December 28th, 2020

In Ontario, the Designated Substances are defined in Table 1 of Ontario Regulation 490/09. This regulation consolidates eleven of the twelve stand-alone regulations for designated substances being used, handled or stored in Ontario and it came into effect on July 1st, 2010. The only regulation that was not consolidated was O. Reg. 278/05 – Asbestos on Construction Projects and in Buildings and Repair Operations.

What Chemicals are Covered under O. Reg. 490/09?

Designated substances are known to result in health problems (cancer, severe allergic reactions, genetic defects, organ disease), if handled improperly, and have been clearly identified under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure their use is strictly controlled.  Table 1 contains the following 11 substances: Acrylonitrile, Arsenic, Asbestos, Benzene, Coke Oven Emissions, Ethylene Oxide, Isocyanates, Lead, Mercury, Silica and Vinyl Chloride.

How do I Know if O. Reg. 490/09 Applies to Me?

If you use, handle or store any of the 11 designated substances or if ingredients of chemicals that you use, handle or store are in Table 1, then O. Reg. 490/09 applies to you.

How do I Know if Products Contain Designated Substances?

Your WHMIS SDS is the best resource to determine if a chemical contains designated substances.  Section 3 of the SDS lists all hazardous chemical ingredients by name, Chemical Abstract Service (CAS) number and percentage composition. You must compare the ingredient CAS # to those in Table 1 of the regulation. For example, many commonly used adhesives and spray foams contain large percentages of the Isocyanates, listed in Table 1. The time-weighted average exposure limit is exceedingly low – 0.005 ppm and the ceiling exposure limit can be as low as 0.015 ppm, meaning that in a 10 ft by 10 ft by 8 ft room, a worker would be above the ceiling exposure with a tenth of a teaspoon of vapour dispersed in the room! These products must be used with great care in the workplace or in any other location with limited ventilation.

I Handle, Use or Store Designated Substances. Now What?

If you have designated substance ingredients, you must assess the likelihood of employee exposure to the designated substance and record this in writing (O. Reg. 490/09, s.19 (1)).   The assessment is best done by a qualified industrial hygienist and depending on the results of this assessment, further actions may be required to properly comply with the regulation.  A qualified safety professional can help you understand the requirements.

Contact Rillea Technologies if you require further information or help identifying your chemicals that contain designated substance ingredients. In one week you can have an answer on what designated substances your workplace has with one of our chemical safety audits.



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SDS RiskAssist an Ontario-based company that uses the power of technology to give employers control and understanding over the otherwise pervasive and worrisome use of chemicals. SDS RiskAssist enables workers to know why chemicals are being used, what their benefits and hazards are and how to use them safely! Workers can access this knowledge via mobile or desktop SafetySnaps™, from anywhere in the world. SDS RiskAssist is the winner for 5 years running, of Readers’ Choice Awards by Canadian Occupational Safety Magazine (2018-2022); the 2019 Innovation Guelph Startup of the Year Award; the 2019 Quinte Business Achievement Award (Trailblazer category) and The Ottawa Network’s 2020 Bootstrap Award (SaaS category). We support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, working with our clients to take action for a sustainable planet.

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