About the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
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The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Canada's hazard communication standard, came into effect on October 31, 1988. The key elements of the system are hazard classification, cautionary labelling of containers, the provision of (material) safety data sheets ((M)SDSs), and worker education programs.
WHMIS is implemented through coordinated federal, provincial and territorial legislation. This coordinated approach avoids duplication, inefficiency through loss of scale and the potential for interprovincial trade barriers to arise if each province and territory established its own hazard communication system.
In WHMIS, Health Canada administers the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and associated regulations, which set labelling and (M)SDS requirements for suppliers.
Health Canada acts as the secretariat for this federal, provincial and territorial government partnership system. WHMIS regulators maintain regular consultative contact with key industry and labour WHMIS Stakeholders. See Administration and Consultation.
Each of the thirteen provincial, territorial and federal agencies responsible for occupational health and safety has established employer WHMIS requirements within their respective jurisdictions. The Labour Program at Employment and Social Development Canada is responsible for workplaces under federal jurisdiction. These requirements place an onus on employers to ensure that controlled or hazardous products used, stored, handled or disposed of in the workplace are properly labelled, (M)SDSs are made available to workers, and workers receive education and training to ensure the safe storage, handling and use of these products in the workplace.
Refer to the occupational health and safety agency in your jurisdiction to learn more about applicable WHMIS employer requirements.
WHMIS.org website also provides information on the status of WHMIS requirements in each jurisdiction; changes affecting suppliers, employers, and workers; and other useful resources.
WHMIS balances workers' right to know with industry's right to protect confidential business information and includes a mechanism for ruling on claims for exemption from disclosure of confidential business information as well as appeals to these rulings.
The Globally Harmonized System
On June 19, 2014, Royal Assent was granted for amendments to the HPA, enabling the Government of Canada to proceed with regulations to implement the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). On February 11, 2015, the Government released final regulations, the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), modifying WHMIS to incorporate the GHS for workplace chemicals. This modified WHMIS is referred to as "WHMIS 2015". The Controlled Product Regulations (CPR) and the Ingredient Disclosure List have been repealed.
The GHS is an internationally consistent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information though labels and SDSs. The implementation of the GHS in Canada will enhance the protection of human health by providing workers with standardized and consistent information on workplace chemical hazards and help facilitate international trade.
With the implementation of the GHS in Canada, a transition period permits suppliers, importers and distributors of hazardous chemicals, as well as employers with such chemicals in their workplaces, to comply with either the WHMIS program first implemented in 1988 (WHMIS 1988) or the newly revised WHMIS program, incorporating the GHS (WHMIS 2015). The transition period began with the coming-into-force of the amended HPA and the new HPR and will end on December 1, 2018. To learn more about this program transition, please see WHMIS Transition.
The transition period, during which either the WHMIS 1988 requirements or those for WHMIS 2015 can be met, provides time for stakeholders to adapt to the regulatory changes.
To learn more about the GHS and its implementation in Canada, please see WHMIS 2015 (incorporating the GHS).
WHMIS supplier hazard communication requirements do not apply to certain chemical products used in Canadian workplaces. Prior to the amendments made to the HPA in 2014, Section 12 of the Act stipulated all of the excluded sectors.
The excluded sectors are:
- Explosive as defined in section 2 of the Explosives Act;
- Cosmetic, device, drug or food as defined in section 2 of the Food and Drugs Act;
- Pest control product as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Pest Control Products Act;
- Nuclear substance, within the meaning of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, that is radioactive;
- Hazardous waste, being a hazardous product that is sold for recycling or recovery or is intended for disposal;
- Consumer product as defined in section 2 of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act;
- Wood or product made of wood;
- Tobacco or tobacco products as defined in section 2 of the Tobacco Act; and
- Manufactured articles as defined in section 2 of the HPA.
Several of these sectors are covered under occupational health and safety regimes in the United States (U.S.) and Europe.
As part of Canada's ongoing alignment with the U.S., eight of the sectors excluded from WHMIS (consumer products, cosmetics, drugs, explosives, food, medical devices, pest control products, and wood and products made from wood) have been moved from section 12 of the HPA to Schedule 1, "Non-Application of Part II", of the Act. In the future, any of these eight sectors could be brought under the HPA requirements through a full regulatory process, which would include a cost-benefit analysis, as well as consultations and pre-publication in the Canada Gazette.
The other four sectors (nuclear substance, hazardous waste, tobacco or tobacco products and manufactured articles) will remain in section 12 of the HPA.
The WHMIS logo is a recognizable graphic identification of this Canadian system. The logo is intended to be used widely to identify informational, promotional or educational material related to WHMIS.
The logo should not be depicted on WHMIS labels nor (M)SDSs.
The WHMIS logo is not intended to be used or to be perceived as a stamp of government approval of any WHMIS-related materials produced by individuals, groups, associations or firms. It is not acceptable to use the logo in any way which would suggest government endorsement of a product or service.
With respect to colour, the WHMIS logo can be printed four different ways:
- black only
- one colour (PMS 293 blue)
- two colours (PMS 293 blue, PMS 151 orange)
- white reverse (out of solid backgrounds only)
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