WHMIS Is a Law
Compliance to WHMIS is mandatory for all employers operating in Canada. It is enforced by provincial and territorial health and safety government organizations, or by the federal Labour Program in certain cases. There is such a thing as a health and safety inspection (or audit); inspectors can verify, among other things, that all safety information is available to workers, and that workers have proper knowledge on how to safely handle the hazardous products of their workplace.
WHMIS vs GHS
GHS, or Globally Harmonized System, is a world-wide standard that aims at keeping workplace hazardous material information and classification systems consistent between nations. The Canadian Workplace Hazardous Material Information System, WHMIS, has been revised in 2015 to include elements of the GHS standard into its own regulations. WHMIS 2015 is the only regulation to be enforced for hazardous materials in the workplace in Canada, with a few exceptions, such as explosives which fall under a different regulation.
WHMIS 2015: Employer's Obligations
1 - Gather Information
Employers must know what hazardous products are used by their workers, how they are used and stored, and in what amount. They must also be aware of hazards associated with those products, along with procedures for safely handling, storing and disposing of the products as well as emergency interventions (i.e. how to contain a spill, extinguish a fire…).
Most of this safety information is found on a product’s safety data sheet.
2 - Train Your Workers
Employers have to ensure that workers receive proper education for safely handling products and performing their tasks. This includes training about the WHMIS regulation itself, and the inner health and safety procedures of your organization.
There are several companies that specialize in training you and your workers to the WHMIS standards, such as Worksite Safety Compliance Center, Response Safety and Rescue Services and Safety First Training. Look them up and see how they can help you out!
3 - Ensure Hazardous Products Are Labelled
It is up to the employer to make sure all products regulated under WHMIS are properly labelled with either a supplier label or workplace label. This means that it is the employer’s duty to see that a missing, removed or illegible supplier label is replaced.
A product that is transferred in another container also has to be labelled, unless it is to be used immediately. Transferred products can be labelled with either a supplier or workplace label.
Tilapia WHMIS is a free and easy tool that lets you create and print WHMIS-compliant labels. Try it out and see if it works for you!
4 - Provide Access to Safety Data Sheets
A safety data sheet (sometimes called material safety data sheet or MSDS) is a comprehensive document detailing all safety-related information about a hazardous product. It is provided by the product’s supplier upon purchase, and is usually available for download in digital format. SDSs must be made available to workers as they contain information supplemental to that of the supplier label.
You can share your safety data sheets with your workers using Tilapia WHMIS and Tilapia e-Binder. Both tools are free!
5 - Provide Safety Equipment
Depending on the hazards related to the hazardous products in use on the workplace, employers must provide their workers with proper personal protective equipment (gloves, safety goggles…) and a safe environment (proper ventilation, lighting…).
It may also be necessary to have intervention equipment at hand, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits and eyewash stations.
You can get more information on WHMIS 2015 from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety’s website.