Introduction to WHMIS
Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) was created in 1988 to address the rights of Canadian workers to know about the health and safety hazards associated with chemicals and other hazardous materials that they use or may come in contact with in the workplace. Exposure to hazardous materials can cause or contribute to many serious health effects such as effects on the nervous system, kidney or lung damage, sterility, cancer, burns or rashes. Some hazardous materials are physical hazards and can cause physical damage like fires or explosions.
Under WHMIS, workers have the right to receive education and training about each hazardous product they use, handle or store. The goal of WHMIS is to reduce injury, disease and exposure to hazardous materials through education and training.
WHMIS is a law and is regulated by the BC Workers' Compensation Act and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. WHMIS legislation regulates controlled products, chemicals, materials and substances.
WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015
WHMIS has recently been updated to WHMIS 2015. It was updated to reflect elements of a new initiative called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The goal of GHS to ensure the same set of rules for classifying hazardous products, and the same format and content for labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), will be adopted and used around the world.
Key changes from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015:
- The hazard symbols have been updated and are now called pictograms
- Material Safety Data Sheets are being replaced with the 16 section Safety Data Sheets
- By December 21, 2018, everything must be fully transitioned to the new WHMIS 2015 system
- During the transition period, workers will use both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015
The goal of WHMIS is to reduce injury and disease by communicating specific health and safety information about hazardous products to workers.
When was WHMIS first introduced in Canada?
When must everything be fully transitioned to the new WHMIS 2015 system?
- Jan 1, 2015
- December 31, 2016
- December 21, 2018
Suppliers, employers and workers all have responsibilities to uphold under WHMIS regulations
1) Supplier Responsibilities
- Suppliers are those that sell or import products. Suppliers must produce a label and SDS for every hazardous product that they manufacture, sell or import.
2) Employer Responsibilities
- Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of hazardous products in the workplace
- Ensure that hazardous products are properly labeled
- Prepare workplace labels and SDSs
- Ensure that up-to-date SDSs are readily available to workers
- Ensure effective control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of worker
3) Worker Responsibilities
- Participate in WHMIS and chemical safety training programs
- Take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers
- Participate in identifying and controlling hazards
Worker's rights under the BC Workers Compensation Act
In addition to WHMIS, worker's rights include:
- The right to refuse unsafe work that they believe is dangerous
- The right to know about the hazardous materials that they work with
- The right to consult with and participate on the Joint Health & Safety Committee
Under WHMIS legislation, workers are responsible for:
- Participating in WHMIS and chemical safety programs
- Taking necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers
- Participating in identifying and controlling hazards