Background

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) are laws, created in 1988 to:

  • give employers and workers information about the hazardous products or chemicals they may be exposed to at work
  • reduce workplace injuries and illnesses

Ontario’s WHMIS legislation applies to all workplaces except farms.

Under WHMIS information on hazardous products must be delivered in three ways:

  1. labels on the containers of hazardous products
  2. safety data sheets, in addition to the label, with detailed hazard and precautionary information
  3. worker education programs

Suppliers of hazardous products must label their products and give safety data sheets before they sell or import them.

Employers must pass the information about workplace hazardous products on to their employees and provide worker education programs.

Changes to WHMIS

WHMIS, now known as WHMIS 2015, has changed to:

  • adopt new international standards for classifying hazardous workplace chemicals and giving information and safety data sheets
  • classify hazardous products into two broad hazard groups, physical hazards and health hazards
  • update the information on labels to include pictograms, instead of symbols, to match hazard classes and make them easier to understand
  • update the format of safety data sheets
  • update the term “controlled products” to “hazardous products” to be consistent with federal WHMIS legislation
  • present information in a consistent manner in all safety data sheets, regardless of supplier
  • ensure that the information that workers and emergency responders need most appears first on labels and safety data sheets

These new standards are part of the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) and were phased in across Canada between February 2015 and December 2018.

As of December 1, 2018, all manufacturers, importers, distributors, suppliers and employers transitioned to WHMIS 2015.

Using WHMIS 1988 products

You can still use WHMIS 1988 products, however you must either:

  • get a WHMIS 2015 compliant label and safety data sheet from the supplier, or
  • create a workplace label and a WHMIS 2015 compliant safety data sheet

If you need help producing compliant labels and safety data sheets, CANWrite system is available, for a fee, from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Worker education

Employers must ensure that workers are trained on hazardous products before they use them.

The type and amount of training will depend on whether a product is new to the workplace and/or newly classified as a hazardous product.

For information on WHMIS training courses, contact one of our health and safety Association partners.

A generic worker training course is also available online, for a small fee, from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).

Updated: August 19, 2021
Published: July 31, 2017