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WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System)

Hazardous materials may cause serious health problems in workers or fires or explosions in the workplace. WHMIS provides information on hazardous products, as defined and described in the federal Hazardous Products Act and Hazardous Products Regulations, so workers can protect themselves. While WHMIS was updated in 2015, responsibilities for employers, workers, and others remain unchanged.

Each hazardous product must have a label and data sheet. Labels identify the product's hazards and precautionary measures. Data sheets provide more detailed information. If the product is not classified as a hazardous product, the employer must still provide training, supervision, and safe work procedures.

Changes to WHMIS

In 2015, WHMIS was updated to align Canada's system with the U.S. and other major trading partners. WHMIS 1988 is being phased out and by December 1, 2018 only the new WHMIS 2015 will be used. Each type of WHMIS user has a set amount of time to transition to the new WHMIS 2015 system.

Phase Time period Suppliers Employers
Manufacturers and importers Distributors
1 February 11, 2015 to May 31, 2017 WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 1988 and/or WHMIS 2015
2 June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018 WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 1988 and/or WHMIS 2015
3 June 1, 2018 to November 30, 2018 WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 1988 and/or WHMIS 2015
Complete December 1, 2018 WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 2015 WHMIS 2015

If an employer has a mix of products in the workplace with WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 labels on them, the employer must ensure workers are trained in both systems.

Responsibilities

Although WHMIS has been updated, the roles and responsibilities of suppliers, employers, and workers remain the same:

Suppliers

As the new WHMIS 2015 is introduced, suppliers (manufacturers, importers, and distributors) have a limited amount of time to implement the new system.

For both WHMIS 1988 and 2015 suppliers must:

  • Classify hazardous products
  • Prepare and provide labels and MSDSs or SDSs to customers
  • Provide supplier labels on all containers of hazardous products they sell or produce

Employers

As the new WHMIS 2015 is introduced, employers have a limited amount of time to implement the new system.

For both WHMIS 1988 and 2015 employers must:

  • Ensure that all hazardous products are properly labelled
  • Make SDSs readily available to workers
  • Prepare workplace labels and SDSs as necessary
  • Provide worker education and training

Workers

For both WHMIS 1988 and 2015 workers must:

  • Participate in WHMIS training programs
  • Take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers
  • Participate in identifying and controlling hazards
  • Inform employers if labels are illegible or missing