WHMIS 1988 - Material Safety Data Sheets


Section 13 of the  Hazardous Products Act (HPA) places a legal requirement on the Canadian supplier of a WHMIS controlled product "intended for use in a work place in Canada" to transmit an MSDS disclosing prescribed information as a condition of sale. Section 14 of the HPA places a legal requirement on the Canadian importer of a controlled product to obtain or prepare an MSDS as a condition of importation. Section 23 of the  Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) sets out the requirements for an imported controlled product that is to be labelled or repackaged in Canada. The Canadian importer who imports a controlled product in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the CPR must obtain or prepare an MSDS before the controlled product is used or sold in Canada. For guidance on determining if a product, material or substance is a controlled product, see Classification of Controlled Products and the WHMIS Reference Manual.

Section 12 and Schedule I of the CPR set out what information must be disclosed on an MSDS. Subject to the trade secret provision under the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, paragraph 13(a) of the HPA sets out what ingredients are subject to disclosure on the MSDS and section 4 of the CPR specifies the concentration above which those ingredients must be disclosed.

Use of the Internet to Transmit MSDSs

Making an MSDS available on the Internet without ensuring that the purchaser is able to access this information does not absolve a supplier of the legal requirement to "transmit" an MSDS as a condition of sale. The use of the Internet to transmit an MSDS would be acceptable if the supplier is able to demonstrate the following:

  1. the purchaser has downloaded the complete and correct MSDS, i.e., one that contains all of the required information;
  2. the downloading is done at the time of the sale of the controlled product; and
  3. the downloaded file is readable.

The purchaser can provide written confirmation to the supplier specifying that the above conditions have been met.

Special Provisions ("Exemptions")

Section 12 of the HPA specifies the categories of products which are not subject to the supplier MSDS and label requirements of the HPA. The CPR also sets out certain exemptions and allowances for MSDSs for certain products which are subject to the HPA.

Table - Special Provisions ("Exemptions")
Special Provision As it relates to ... Section of CPR
generic MSDSs products with similar composition 7
ingredient disclosure complex mixtures 5
ingredient disclosure concentration cut-off 4
ingredient disclosure concentration ranges 11
ingredient disclosure flavours & fragrances 5.1
laboratory samples quantity, ingredient disclosure 9
laboratory supply house products originating from a "supply house" intended for lab use 10
same product multiple sale of 6(a)
same product subsequent sales of 6(b)
trade secret sale to employer who has filed a claim for 8
trade secret sale by secondary supplier 8.2
trade secret substitute information 26, 27, HPA 16

Language Requirements

The Canadian supplier must provide an MSDS in the official language or languages requested by the purchaser or, when no preference is stated, in the language used in the course of the business transaction (subsection 24(1) and 24(2) of the CPR). Suppliers must have prepared MSDSs in both English and French by the time they begin selling the product in Canada. The supplier may have two MSDSs – one in each language or both languages on a single MSDS.


As set out in Section 12 of and Schedule I to the CPR, Canada had adopted a nine heading MSDS format. However, as an administrative policy, MSDSs for WHMIS controlled products which use the ILO, ISO, EC, ANSI or GHS 16 heading format are accepted as meeting compliance requirements of CPR Section 12, provided that all 16 headings are disclosed (in the sequence recommended by these other standards) and that the required content specified under Schedule I, Column III of the CPR is addressed. All headings and subheadings which appear on the MSDS must be addressed by disclosing the relevant information or by declaring that the information is not available or not applicable, as appropriate.

Testing Requirements

WHMIS was designed to make the best use of existing data. There is no legal requirement in the HPA or CPR to test materials for the purpose of MSDS disclosure. On the other hand, if the formulation is unknown, a supplier/importer may need to conduct testing to meet the MSDS ingredient disclosure requirements stipulated in Section 13 of the HPA.

Revisions to MSDSs

Information disclosed on MSDSs and labels must be accurate at the time of sale of the controlled product. As set out in subsection 29(2) of the CPR, the supplier must provide an MSDS with a preparation date of less than three years (3 X 365 days) prior to the sale or importation of the controlled product.

If no information has changed on the MSDS for three years, the supplier must review the MSDS to verify that it is still accurate and that there is no new available and applicable information that should be disclosed. When there is new information, it must be disclosed on the MSDS and, if applicable, the label of the product. The MSDS must be revised so that the date of preparation reflects the date the MSDS was reviewed, even if there was no new information.

Toxicological Information - Guideline

The Intergovernmental WHMIS Coordinating Committee (IWCC) has adopted "Guidelines for the Disclosure of Toxicological Information on a Material Safety Data Sheet".

Personal Protective Equipment - Guideline

Recommendations for PPE on MSDSs have been incorporated into the Health Canada Reference Manual corresponding to Item 8 of Schedule 1 to the  Controlled Products Regulations.

First Aid Statements - Guideline

Recommended first aid statements for MSDSs (and labels) have been incorporated into the Health Canada Reference Manual corresponding to Item 9 of Schedule 1 to the  Controlled Products Regulations.

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