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WHMIS 2015 – All About the Transition

Home » WHMIS 2015 – All About the Transition

A good example of the kinds of industry changes we monitor is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System WHMIS, Canada’s national hazard communication standard.The key elements of the system are hazard classification, cautionary labeling of containers, the provision of (material) safety data sheets ((M)SDSs) and worker education and training programs.

A big part of our job at ABCanada is the ongoing monitoring of changes to regulations and industry standards. We update our Health, Safety and Environment Software, HSE practices and forms on a regular basis to reflect these changes. By allowing us to look after this time-consuming task, our customers can instead spend their time working directly with their employees and worksites, implementing and monitoring their safety and environmental programs.

WHMIS is right-to-know legislation, meaning it was developed because individuals, who are exposed to hazardous materials at work, have a right to know about those hazards and how to protect themselves. Specifically, workers have the right to know:

  • if the material they are handling is hazardous,
  • the nature of the hazard,
  • and recommended measures for safely handling, storing, using and disposing of the material.

On February 11, 2015, the Government of Canada published the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), which, in addition to the amendments made to the Hazardous Products Act (HPA), modified the WHMIS 1988 to incorporate the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) for workplace chemicals. This modified WHMIS is referred to as WHMIS 2015.

The primary differences between the two WHMIS versions are in the way hazardous products are classified as well as in the data sheets and labels that must accompany hazardous materials. The adoption of GHS will align Canada’s WHMIS with similar systems worldwide. A key benefit of GHS is a globally standardized approach to both hazard classification and hazard communication, making it easier for workers to safely work across many jurisdictions.

Changes to note in WHMIS 2015 include:

  • two main hazard classes – physical hazards and health hazards
  • new label requirements and pictograms that correspond to hazard classes
  • a different format for safety data sheets

Suppliers must transition to WHMIS 2015 by June 1, 2018, but in the meantime they can continue to follow WHMIS 1988. However, once they transition to WHMIS 2015, they must follow only WHMIS 2015, which means their SDS and labels for their hazardous products must meet the new standards from that point forward.

Employers have until December 1, 2018 to implement WHMIS 2015 labelling and SDS standards, but in the meantime, they can continue to follow WHMIS 1988. However, once they transition to WHMIS 2015, they must follow only WHMIS 2015, which means SDS and labels created on worksites (e.g., for hazardous wastes created on site) must meet the new standards from that point forward.

Through the transition period, employees and contractors must know, understand and be able to meet WHMIS requirements under both versions. To assist our customers with this task, we recently rewrote the WHMIS practice featured in the safety program component of our HSE Software to reflect the current and changing requirements from WHMIS 1998 to WHMIS 2015. Our practice describes requirements for both WHMIS versions and provides guidance on recognizing the difference between WHMIS 1998 classifications and labelling and WHMIS 2015 classifications and labelling.

You’ll find more HSE policies, best practices, task-specific procedures, and forms in our HSE Software. They’re all based on industry best practices and regulated requirements and, like our Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Practice, updated regularly as requirements change. The content is practical, user friendly, easy to search, review and print, and can be customized to meet your specific needs.

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