WHMIS 1988 - WHMIS Regulatory Framework


The Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and associated Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) are administered by Health Canada.  The responsibility for enforcing Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is shared between the federal government and the governments of the provinces and territories. Each of the thirteen federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) agencies responsible for occupational health and safety (OHS) has established employer WHMIS requirements within their respective jurisdiction. Workplaces under federal jurisdiction are the responsibility of Employment and Social Development Canada.

On June 19, 2014, Bill C-31, Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, received Royal Assent, where Division 3 of Part 6 amends the HPA; however, the legislative amendments pertaining to the HPA are not yet in force.  Until these amendments come into force, suppliers must continue to adhere to the current HPA.

The amendments to the HPA will enable the implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) with respect to, among other things, labelling and safety data sheet requirements. For more information, please see GHS and WHMIS.

Supplier MSDS and Labelling Requirements

Hazardous Products Act (HPA): The HPA requires suppliers/importers of hazardous workplace materials to transmit material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and to label containers as a condition of sale and importation. It sets out which ingredients, (subject to the trade secret provisions under the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act), must be disclosed on the MSDS and lists the product categories which are excluded from the supplier label and MSDS requirements of the HPA.

Controlled Products Regulations (CPR): The CPR specifies the types and arrangement of information on MSDSs, the form and content of supplier labels, conditions for exemption and the criteria that define a controlled product.

Ingredients Disclosure List (IDL): The IDL is a list of chemicals identified in alphabetical order by their common name. The corresponding Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registry number is provided where available. Each chemical has a corresponding concentration "cut-off" of either 0.1% or 1.0% (weight/weight). If the ingredient is present in a controlled product above its cut-off, the identity and concentration of that ingredient must be disclosed on an MSDS.

The criteria used to include an ingredient on the IDL are different than the criteria used for defining a WHMIS controlled product. Ingredients that are not WHMIS controlled may be included on the IDL.  Similarly, a WHMIS controlled ingredient would not necessarily be on the IDL. To this end, a chemical included in the IDL which is not itself a controlled product is not subject to the HPA label or MSDS requirements, but when it is included in a controlled product above its cut-off concentration, its identity and concentration must be disclosed on the MSDS.

Employer WHMIS Requirements

Each of the thirteen provincial, territorial and federal agencies responsible for occupational safety and health has established employer WHMIS requirements within their respective jurisdictions. For more information, please see Frequently Asked Questions.

Trade Secrets

The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA) and Regulations: Certain disclosure requirements of the HPA, including MSDS ingredient disclosure, are subject to trade secret provisions under the HMIRA. Health Canada rules on claims and appeals related to exemptions from disclosure of confidential business information. For more information, see Protecting CBI Information.

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