The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System – you may know it as WHMIS – has been in force across Canada since 1988. If you’re part of the Canadian workforce, chances are you’ve taken WHMIS training at sometime or other. Especially since employers are required to ensure that workers working in proximity to a controlled product are informed about all available hazard information concerning the product’s use, storage and handling. And workers, in turn, are required to participate in hazardous materials training and then apply this knowledge in the workplace.
Jump ahead 27 years, and WHMIS 1988 is now WHMIS 2015, a more comprehensive and universal system for the safe use and handling of controlled products in the workplace.
WHMIS 2015 incorporates aspects of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, also referred to as GHS, which was developed by the United Nations, in cooperation with all member states, as an international system of hazard communication.
On February 11, 2015, the Hazardous Products Regulations, in addition to amendments made to the Hazardous Products Act, changed WHMIS 1988 to incorporate the Globally Harmonized System for workplace chemicals. Under this new WHMIS 2015 legislation, manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers all have specific deadlines for compliance.
Manufacturers and Importers: May 31, 2017
Distributors: May 31, 2018
Employers: November 30, 2018
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals offers several benefits over the WHMIS 1988 legislation, including improved and consistent hazard information, standardized symbols, ease of compliance, promotion of regulatory efficiencies, and facilitation of trade.
Well, WHMIS 2015 has really bulked up its hazard classes and symbols compared to WHMIS 1988. It has split the hazard classes into two groups, physical hazards and health hazards, with each group containing numerous classes. Some might say it’s just more to learn or that less is more, but when it comes to our health and safety, can we ever have too much information?? But I digress.
Another update to WHMIS 2015 includes a standardized supplier label, which must include a product identifier, an initial supplier identifier, a pictogram, a signal word, hazard and precautionary statements, as well as supplemental information.
The WHMIS 1988 Material Safety Data Sheets will now be known as Safety Data Sheets under WHMIS 2015 and the previous 9 section MSDS will be replaced by an expanded and enhanced 16 section SDS. Why?? Again, more information and detail equal greater knowledge for the worker, so they can properly protect themselves against hazards inherent in their work.
What Hasn’t Changed
Whether you call it WHMIS, WHMIS 1988, WHMIS 2015, GHS or “that program I have to take every year or two”, WHMIS has been and always will be an essential method for the communication of hazards and the education of workers regarding the use of controlled products in the workplace.