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


  • 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 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.

Transitioning WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015

To allow partners and stakeholders time to uniformly adopt the new requirements, WHMIS 2015 is being implemented in three phases. The first phase introduced the new, amended Hazardous Product Act and the new Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR). Specific controlled or hazardous products must either comply with WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 requirements. In other words, the supplier must choose which classification, label and material safety data sheet to follow rather than try to abide by both sets of requirements.

During the first phase, employers may continue to have WHMIS 1988 and/or WHMIS 2015 labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS) and safety data sheets (SDS) in the workplace. As an employer, you are required to

  • Continue to comply with WHMIS 1988 requirements if there are no products with WHMIS 2015 SDS and labels
  • Comply with the new requirements if you receive a product with WHMIS 2015 SDS and labels. Compliance includes revised training in WHMIS 2015

To allow time for suppliers, employers and workers to adjust to the new WHMIS 2015 requirements, a multi-year transition plan is in effect. During the transition period, both the original WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 may be used in the workplace. The second and third phases of WHMIS will be completed by December 2018. Dates of the three transitional phases are outlined below.





Time period

Manufacturers and importers




Feb 11, 2015 to May 31, 2017

WHMIS 1988 or 2015

WHMIS 1988 or 2015

WHMIS 1988 or 2015


June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018

WHMIS 2015

WHMIS 1988 or 2015

WHMIS 1988 or 2015


June 1, 2018 to Nov 30, 2018

WHMIS 2015

WHMIS 2015

WHMIS 1988 or 2015


Dec 1, 2018

WHMIS 2015

WHMIS 2015

WHMIS 2015


Additional Information

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