Safety Tip: Be Prepared for the WHIMIS Inspectors

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Federal OHS inspectors will be visiting workplaces across the country to check for compliance with the new GHS/WHMIS2015 requirements starting October 1, 2017.

What are the GHS/WHMIS2015 Requirements?

WHMIS stands for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. It is a comprehensive system for providing health and safety information on hazardous products intended for use, handling, or storage in Canadian workplaces.

WHMIS has aligned with the worldwide hazard communication system known as GHS – the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Aligning with GHS provides many benefits, including:

Hazard classification criteria are more comprehensive which improves their ability to indicate the severity of hazards.
New hazard classes are included.
Physical hazard criteria are consistent with the Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG regulations).
Standardized language (hazard and precautionary statements).
Standardized SDS format and more comprehensive requirements.

The main components of WHMIS are hazard identification and product classification, labelling, safety data sheets, and worker education and training.

Is WHMIS the law? YES – WHMIS first became law in 1988 through a series of complementary federal, provincial and territorial legislation and regulations. This original system will be identified as WHMIS 1988. Updates to implement GHS are referred to as WHMIS 2015.

The WMIS 2015 changes affect 3 groups along a “controlled products” life cycle:

The companies that manufacture it
The companies that import or distribute it
The companies that buy and use it downstream, i.e., employers—which is probably you

The deadline for employers to comply with the new requirements is December 1, 2018, but the federal inspectors will still be targeting employers starting October 1, 2017.

What will inspectors be looking for?

The deadline for employers to comply with the new rules is December 31; they are focused on helping employers comply more than catching them for doing something wrong. But employers can still get fined if they don’t have the goods the feds are looking for, namely, documentation showing that:

You’ve provided adequate WHMIS 2015 training to your workers
Your WHMIS labels meet either current WHMIS2015 label requirements or GHS standards
You have either a WHMIS-compliant MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) or GHS/WHMIS 2015-compliant SDS (Safety Data Sheet—they’ve dropped the “M”) for each controlled product used, processed or stored at your workplace.

Once December 1, 2018, rolls around, the old-fangled WHMIS label and MSDS will no longer be acceptable and only GHS/WHMIS2015 labels and SDSs will do.

Information for this blog post was taken from the “Compliance Alert: Ready or Not, Here Come the WHMIS Inspectors” safety article on”.