Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) 2015

& the Globally Harmonized System of Classification & Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) 2015 is the standardized plan for sharing information about the safe use of hazardous materials in Canadian workplaces. Managers must ensure hazardous materials are identified and properly controlled, stored and used.

WHMIS has been updated to reflect the United Nations initiative, Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), and aligns Canada's hazard classification and communication requirements with the United States and other trading partners. The original WHMIS is now referred to as 1988. See below for more about the update.

Hazardous Materials in the Workplace

Some workplaces have hazardous materials and products on site that are restricted, controlled or prohibited by federal legislation.

WorkSafeBC specifies WHMIS 2015 program requirements. These are

  • Safety data sheets (SDS), which communicate through pictures and statements about hazards, precautions and first aid measures
  • Product labelling: product name, risk phrases, safety precautions, hazard class symbols, supplier information, reference to the SDS
  • Employee training

Items brought into the workplace that are packaged for consumers in normal consumer quantities are NOT required to have a WHMIS 2015 program. For example, a four-litre bottle of bleach in the workplace is not considered a hazardous material, while a 45-gallon drum of bleach is considered a hazardous material.

Office supplies such as photocopier toner and whiteboard cleaner in normal consumer quantities are not considered hazardous and do not require a WHMIS 2015 program. However, it is good practice to have safe work procedures that address clean-up issues for any stationery supply materials.

If a workplace requires a WHMIS 2015 program, a manager is required to

  • Assign responsibility for managing the WHMIS 2015 program
  • Establish an inventory of controlled products
  • Determine the hazards of the controlled products
  • Prepare workplace labels and SDS (as necessary) and ensure that hazardous products are properly labelled
  • Establish safe work procedures and provide any protective equipment
  • Establish emergency procedures in case of a spill or employee exposure
  • Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of hazardous products in the workplace
  • Review the WHMIS 2015 program annually

Workers

  • Participate in WHMIS and chemical safety training programs (introductory online training will be available in summer, 2016)
  • Take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers
  • Participate in identifying and controlling hazards

If you have not yet received training and are receiving SDS and new labels for products in your workplace contact an Occupational Safety Specialist via AskMyHR to assist you.

Three types of hazard classes

  • Physical hazard classes: Hazards relating to physical and chemical properties, such as flammability or compressed gases
  • Health hazard classes: Hazards to health arising from exposure to a substance or mixture, such as acute toxicity or skin sensitization
  • Environmental hazard classes: Hazards to the aquatic environment and  to the ozone layer

Pictograms

Pictograms are graphic images that show the user of a hazardous product what type of hazard is present. With a quick glance, you can see, for example, that the product is flammable, or that it might be a health hazard.

Most pictograms are distinctively a square on a point—like a diamond—with a thick red border. Inside the border is a symbol that represents the potential hazard (for example, fire, health hazard, corrosive). Pictograms are assigned to specific hazard classes or categories. Find more about WHMIS 2015 from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

SDS have a 16-heading format, which has already been in use by many suppliers.

Signal words

Each substance will now have either Danger or Warning on the label, unless it is deemed of such low hazard it does not require one:

  • Danger - more severe hazards
  • Warning - less severe hazards

Hazard statements

A hazard statement is a standardized statement about the nature of hazard and degree of hazard of a substance. Each hazard statement has a corresponding identification code; however, this code may not be used instead of the written hazard statement on the packaging/safety data sheet and must only be used for reference.

Precautionary statements

A precautionary statement is a brief written statement or pictogram that provides measures to minimize or prevent effects from physical, health or environmental hazards. These measures include first aid.

Additional Information

Contact AskMyHR to determine if your workplace requires a WHMIS program or if you require further information or assistance.