Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

WHMIS legislation provides employees, employers and suppliers nationwide with specific vital information about hazardous materials (called "controlled products" in the legislation).

The WHMIS requirements are contained in the WCB Regulations, Book 2 -- Sections 5.3 to 5.21

There are three key elements to WHMIS which include:

1. Controlled product labeling

    A controlled product is a substance or material that falls into one or more of the following classes or divisions:

    Class A: Compressed Gas

    Class B: Flammable and Combustible Material

    Class C: Oxidizing Material

    Class D: Poisonous and Infectious Materials

    Division 1: Materials Causing Immediate And Serious Toxic Effects. This division covers materials which can cause the death of a person exposed to small amounts.

    Division 2: Materials Causing Other Toxic Effects. This division covers materials which cause immediate skin or eye irritation as well as those which can cause long-term effects in a person repeatedly exposed to small amounts.

    Division 3: Biohazardous Infectious Materials. This division applies to materials which contain harmful microorganisms.

    Class E: Corrosive Material

    Class F: Dangerously Reactive Material

    Some materials are partially exempted from this list of controlled materials because they are covered by other labeling legislature. These products include: some consumer products, cosmetics and drugs, explosives, pesticides, radioactive substances. Some materials are completely exempted, such as wood and products made of wood, manufactured articles, tobacco and products made of tobacco, and goods handled, offered for transport or transported pursuant to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

    The supplier must prepare and make available a supplier label, providing pertinant information.  The supplier label must have a distinctive border, as shown in the example below, and must be in both official languages.

    Hazardous Materials Supplier Label

2. Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) is a technical bulletin that provides detailed hazard, precautionary and emergency information on a controlled product.

All data sheets must provide nine sections of content:

  • product information
  • hazardous ingredients
  • physical data
  • fire and explosion hazard
  • reactivity data
  • toxicological properties (health effects)
  • preventive measures
  • first aid measures
  • preparation information (date of preparation and the name and phone number of persons or corporate departments to be contacted for additional information.)

No section of the data sheet can be left blank.

No data sheet may be more than three years old.

3. Worker Education

An educated worker must be able to answer three basic questions:

  • What are the hazards of the material in use?
  • What precautions are required for the safe use of the material?
  • Where do I go for further information?

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The Employer’s Role:

The employer is responsible for checking that supplier labels have been provided and applied to controlled products received at the workplace. Workers must be instructed in the information contained on labels and identifiers. The employer must take steps to ensure labels are not defaced and are easy to read at all times.

Employers must ensure that MSDS's are received for all controlled products supplied to the workplace. The employer must contact the supplier for an updated sheet when the data sheet at the workplace is three years old. If the employer produces a controlled product for use at the workplace, the employer must develop an MSDS to accompany workplace labeling for it.

Copies of supplier and employer MSDS must be accessible to employees, close to their work areas and available during each workshift. This information may be made available on a computer subject to the WCB Reg. 5.16(2). Worker's must be educated in the content required on the data sheet and the applicable information in it.

Employers will need to establish education and training programs for workers. The program of instruction will include:

  • education in how WHMIS works
  • training in procedures for the safe storage, handling, use and disposal of a controlled product, as well as procedures to be followed in case of an emergency with the product and when airborne or other emissions from the product are present.

Workers will need to be educated if they:

  • store, handle, use or dispose of a controlled product or supervise workers performing those duties
  • work near the controlled product such that their health and safety could be a risk during normal storage, handling, use or disposal during maintenance operations or in emergencies.

RESPONSIBILITIES

Dean/Director/Manager:

  1. Establish an inventory of controlled products.
    • A master controlled products list is to be maintained by each Department of all controlled products used in their area
    • List to be updated yearly and a copy forwarded to the Health & Safety Coordinator
  2. Ensure that WHMIS labeling and Material Safety Data Sheets are in place.
    • New products received will be labelled
    • If products are broken down into other containers, these containers must have a workplace label affixed to them
  3. Determine the hazards of controlled products in the workplace.
  4. Establish workplace controls, which may include:
    • Engineering controls, such as ventilation, process modification and isolation of the source
    • Administrative controls such as work procedures, storage arrangements, maintenance and time scheduling
    • Personal protective equipment such as respirators, gloves and protective clothing
  5. Coordinate with Health & Safety Coordinator to ensure that all workers receive required training.

Employees:

  1. Workers who work with controlled products will be expected to handle them in accordance with safe work procedures.
  2. Inform employers when the labels are illegible or have been accidentally removed.

Health & Safety Coordinator:

  1. Establish Emergency Procedures.
  2. Ensure Worker Education as requested.
  3. Review and maintain the WHMIS program.

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