The duties of the supplier in order to comply with Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) are set out in the federal
Hazardous Products Act and the Controlled
Products Regulation. This chapter describes those duties, and where
applicable, references the relevant sections of the federal law. In this chapter,
More detailed information is available in a publication entitled WHMIS Core Material, A Resource Manual for the Application and Implementation of WHMIS. It can be ordered for $15.00 from:
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Workers' Compensation Board of B.C.
Telephone: (604) 276-3068
Who is a supplier?
A supplier is a person who manufactures, processes, packages, sells or imports
a hazardous material intended for use in the workplace.
What are the duties of a supplier?
A supplier has three duties.
- To determine which hazardous materials intended for use in the workplace
are controlled products. This is the "classification" step.
- To label all controlled products as a condition of sale [section
13(b) of the Act] or importation [section 14(b)
of the Act].
- To provide material safety data sheets for controlled products as a condition
of sale [section 13(a) of the Act] or importation
[section 14(a) of the Act].
What is a controlled product?
A controlled product is any product that can be included in any of the following
- Class A Compressed Gas
- Class B Flammable and Combustible Material
- Class C Oxidizing Material
- Class D Poisonous and Infectious Material
- Class E Corrosive Material
- Class F Dangerously Reactive Material
Two of the classes, Class B and Class D, are subdivided as follows:
- Class B Flammable and Combustible Material
Division 1 Flammable Gases
Division 2 Flammable Liquids
Division 3 Combustible Liquids
Division 4 Flammable Solids
Division 5 Flammable Aerosols
Division 6 Reactive Flammable Materials
- Class D Poisonous and Infectious Material
Division 1 Material Causing Immediate and Serious Toxic Effects
Subdivision A Very Toxic Material
Subdivision B Toxic Material
Division 2 Materials Causing Other Toxic Effects
Subdivision A Very Toxic Material
Subdivision B Toxic Material
Division 3 Biohazardous Infectious Material
How does a supplier determine if a product that he/she sells is
a controlled product?
The supplier must refer to Part IV of the Controlled Products Regulation,
[sections 32 - 66]. This part of the regulation has
a very detailed definition, or criteria, for each WHMIS
class, division and subdivision. The supplier must compare the characteristics
or properties of the product in question, to the criteria in Part IV. If the
properties of the product meet the criteria for any of the classes, divisions
or subdivisions, it is a controlled product.
Is the supplier required to test a material to determine whether
it is a controlled product?
To determine if a material is a controlled product, the supplier is allowed
to use someone else's test results on the material, or where appropriate,
someone else's test results on a material that has similar properties. However,
if no test results on the material or a material with similar properties are
available, the supplier is required to test it to determine if it falls into
Classes A, B, C, E, or F.
The supplier is not required to test the material to determine if it falls
into Class D, even if no test data exist. To classify a material as belonging
to Class D, the supplier is allowed to use information that he/she is or ought
to be aware of [section 33 of the regulation].
The Supplier Label
What is a label?
A label can be any mark, sign, device, stamp, seal, sticker, ticket, tag
What information is the supplier required to put on a label?
Illustration 1: Supplier Label
There are 7 items of information that the supplier must put on the label
of a controlled product [section 19(1) of the regulation].
See Appendix II: WHMIS Supplier Label.
The name of the product, which can be any one of the
chemical name, common name, generic name or trade name.
If the name of the product is a trade secret, the supplier can use a
code name or code number to identify the product [section
19(2)(a) of the regulation].
The name of the supplier.
- A reference to a material safety data sheet, which is
a statement alerting the user of the controlled product that more information
is available. Examples include:
- See Material Safety Data Sheet, or
- Consult Material Safety Data Sheet.
- Hazard symbol(s) as shown in Appendix
Each WHMIS class has a corresponding hazard symbol,
except for Class D, which has 3 hazard symbols, 1 for each of its Divisions.
In general, the label should include a hazard symbol for each WHMIS
class that the controlled product falls into. There is one exception to
this general rule, namely, when a controlled product falls into both Divisions
1 and 2 of Class D, only the hazard symbol for Division 1 is required
on the label [section 19(5) of the regulation].
- Risk phrases, which are short statements describing the
hazardous properties of a controlled product. Examples of risk phrases include:
- rapidly absorbed through skin,
- eye irritant,
- causes severe burns,
- explosive when dry,
- reacts violently with water.
The exact wording of the risk phrases is up to the supplier.
- Precautionary measures, which are short statements describing
the precautions to be taken when handling a controlled product. Examples
of precautionary measures include:
- wear face protection,
- avoid prolonged contact with skin,
- store away from heat,
- when using, do not smoke, or
- keep container dry.
The exact wording of the precautionary measures is up to the supplier.
- First aid measures, which are short statements describing
the immediate steps to be taken, either by the victim or by co-workers,
when an accident with a controlled product has occurred. The statements
should be specific to the product. First aid measures do not include additional
steps to be taken only by a medical professional.
If the container of the controlled product has a volume of 100 millilitres
or less, the supplier is allowed to make an abbreviated label that includes
items 1 to 4 only [section 19(1)(a) - (d) of the regulation].
What are the design requirements of the supplier label?
The design requirements of the supplier label concern language, a border,
layout and colour.
- Language The supplier label must be in English and French.
The supplier can make one bilingual label or two separate labels, one in
English and one in French [section 24(3) of the regulation].
- Border The supplier label must have a border, as shown
in the sample supplier label in Appendix
II. The shape and slant of the hatch marks must be the same as in the
sample but the size and spacing of the marks can vary. The border may be
on the label or on the container. The border can be any colour that contrasts
with the background [section 20(a) of the regulation].
- Layout Appendix II shows one of many acceptable formats
for the supplier label. As long as all the required information is present,
the individual items such as the product name, or the first aid measures,
can be located anywhere within the border.
There is no minimum or maximum size specified for the supplier label.
There is only a general requirement that the label be easily legible [section
21(1) of the regulation].
- Colour In addition to the requirement that the border
be in a colour that contrasts with the background, there is a requirement
concerning the colour of the hazard symbols. In general, hazard symbols
on the label must be "in a colour that is not likely to create confusion"
with a safety mark required by transportation of dangerous goods legislation
[section 22(b) of the regulation]. For an explanation
of what this means, and the colours that are permitted for hazard symbols,
Outer and Inner Containers
What are the duties of the supplier when labelling a controlled
product that is packaged in outer and inner containers (for example, a box
containing 4 cans of a controlled product)?
As a general rule, every container must have a WHMIS supplier
label; however there are 4 exceptions. The supplier does not have to label:
- an inner container, if the outer container has a supplier label, and the
supplier has a written agreement with the employer that the employer will
label the inner container;
- an inner container that is actually a package liner, for example, a plastic
bag used to contain powder in a box;
- an outer container, if the label on the inner container can be seen and
read through the outer container, for example, inner containers shrink wrapped
in clear plastic; and
- an outer container, if the outer container is labelled according to transportation
of dangerous goods legislation and all inner containers have WHMIS
labels [section 14 of the regulation].
What is a bulk shipment?
"Bulk shipment" means a shipment of a controlled product that
is contained without intermediate packaging in
- a vessel with a water capacity of more than 454 litres,
- a freight container, a road vehicle, a railway vehicle, a portable tank,
a freight container carried on a road vehicle, railway vehicle, ship or
aircraft, or a portable tank carried on a road vehicle, railway vehicle,
ship or aircraft,
- the hold of a ship, or
- a pipeline.
How should the supplier label a bulk shipment?
When a controlled product is shipped in bulk it is usually transported to
a worksite and then transferred to a storage container at the worksite. For
the supplier to label the container or vehicle in which the shipment is transported
does not achieve the purpose of providing a label for the controlled product
once it is at the employer's worksite. Therefore, for a controlled product
that is shipped in bulk, the supplier can provide the labelling information
to the employer in any one of 3 ways [section 15(1)(a) of
- The supplier can send a label with the shipping documents.
- The supplier can send the labelling information in the form of a written
statement, for example, in a letter.
- The supplier can add the labelling information to the material safety
data sheet for the controlled product.
If the supplier chooses option 2 or 3 above, are the hazard symbols
No. If the supplier sends the employer the labelling information in a written
statement or material safety data sheet, the hazard symbols can be replaced
by a reference to the Class, and where applicable the Division, into which
the controlled product falls [section 15(2) of the regulation].
Does the supplier have to send a label, or labelling information,
with every bulk shipment of a controlled product?
No. If the employer received the labelling information with an earlier shipment,
and that information is still current, the supplier is not required to send
the labelling information with subsequent bulk shipments [section
15(1)(b) of the regulation].
This differs from the requirements for controlled products that are not shipped
in bulk, in which case labels are required on containers every time the controlled
product is sold.
The Supplier Material Safety Data Sheet
What is a material safety data sheet?
A material safety data sheet (MSDS)
is a technical document or bulletin that summarizes the health and safety
information available about a controlled product. It supplements the warning
information on the label.
A supplier MSDS is not intended to provide
all the information needed for the safe use of a product. The way a controlled
product is used, and consequently the hazard to the worker, can vary from
plant to plant. The supplier is not expected to anticipate every required
protective measure for every workplace to which the product is sold. The employer,
through the worker education program, is expected to tailor the supplier's
information to the conditions in the employer's workplace.
What information is required on a supplier MSDS?
A supplier MSDS must have at least 9 sections with the
following or similar headings [section 12 (1) and Schedule
I of the regulation].
- Product Information to identify the product, the supplier/manufacturer,
and to describe the use of the product.
- Hazardous Ingredients to provide information on the name,
concentration and toxicity of each hazardous ingredient of a controlled
- Physical Data which means information that describes
the physical properties of the product, such as whether the product is a
solid, liquid or gas.
- Fire or Explosion Hazard which includes information on
how likely the product is to ignite or explode under various conditions.
- Reactivity Data to provide information on the chemical
stability of the product, and how likely it is to react with other chemicals.
- Toxicological Properties to provide information on how
the product enters the body and what its short- and long-term health effects
- Preventive Measures to provide information on the measures
to protect worker health and safety during the transportation, storage,
use and disposal of the product, as well as emergency procedures.
- First Aid Measures to provide information for the safe
evacuation and immediate treatment of anyone overexposed to a controlled
- Preparation Information which means the name and phone
number of the person or group who prepared the MSDS,
and the date of preparation.
Within these 9 sections, about 60 specific items of information must be included,
if available to the supplier and applicable to the controlled product [section
12(2) of the regulation]. Appendix
III shows the 9 sections of the supplier MSDS and the
specific information required in each section.
What is the required format of the supplier MSDS?
With a few exceptions, the supplier may adopt any format or design for the
MSDS as long as the 9 required sections are included. The
following points summarize these exceptions and give some general guidelines
for completing the MSDS.
- Each of the 9 sections must have a heading the same as or similar to the
one shown in Appendix III [section 12(l) of the regulation].
For example, the Product Information section could be entitled
Product Information or Product Identification and
- Headings cannot be combined to form one heading. There must be 9 separate
headings. However, one heading may appear as a subheading under another
heading. For example, Fire or Explosion Hazard may appear as a
subheading under Physical Data.
- The information items shown in Appendix III do not necessarily have to
be in the sections or categories shown, but can be put in other sections
if it makes sense to do so. For example, it would be acceptable to put the
LD50 value for the hazardous ingredients of a controlled product
in the Hazardous Ingredients section (as shown in Appendix III)
or in the Toxicological Properties section. However, it would not
be appropriate to put conditions of flammability in the Toxicological
- The name and concentration of hazardous ingredients must always appear
in the Hazardous Ingredients section as opposed to any other section
on the MSDS [section 12(3] of
- The name and phone number of the person or group who prepared the MSDS,
and the date of the MSDS must always appear in the Preparation
Information section [section 12(3) of the regulation].
- It is not acceptable to replace a required heading with a variety of other
headings. For example, the supplier cannot replace the heading Preventive
Measures with the headings:
- Special Protection Information,
- Special Precautions, and
- Spill or Leak Procedures.
- If for any of the 9 sections, none of the required information is available
or applicable, the MSDS must have the words "not available"
or "not applicable", as the case may be, under the section heading. The
supplier is not permitted to leave a section blank [section
12(6) of the regulation].
In addition to the information shown in Appendix III, is any other
information required on the supplier MSDS?
Yes. The MSDS must have any other hazard information about
the controlled product of which the supplier is aware or ought to be aware
[section 12(11) of the regulation].
For the purpose of completing the MSDS, what
is a hazardous ingredient?
A hazardous ingredient is any one of the following:
- an ingredient that can be classified as a controlled product;
- an ingredient that is on the Ingredient Disclosure List;
- an ingredient for which the toxicological properties are unknown; or
- an ingredient that the supplier has reasonable grounds to believe may
Are there any exemptions to the requirement to list the hazardous
ingredients of a controlled product on an MSDS?
Yes. There are 4 circumstances in which hazardous ingredients do not have
to be listed on the MSDS.
Concentration Cut-off A hazardous ingredient does not
have to be listed on the supplier MSDS if it is present
below a concentration of
- 0.1% and is a teratogen, embryotoxin, carcinogen, reproductive toxin,
respiratory tract sensitizer or mutagen*; or
- 1%, unless it is on the Ingredient Disclosure List and the cut-off
specified in the list is 0.1% [section 4 of the regulation].
* These terms are defined in Part IV of the Controlled Products Regulation,
- Complex Mixtures Hazardous ingredients do not have to
be listed on an MSDS if the controlled product is a complex
mixture and if the supplier discloses the generic name of the complex mixture
on the MSDS [section 5 of the regulation].
Turpentine and petroleum distillates are examples of complex mixtures.
A complex mixture contains many ingredients whose concentrations may vary
from batch to batch. In addition, a complex mixture
- has a commonly known generic name;
- is naturally occurring;
- is a fraction of a naturally occurring mixture that results from a
separation process; or
- is a modification of such a mixture or fraction.
- Research and Development Hazardous ingredients do not
have to be listed on an MSDS if the controlled product
is actually a laboratory sample being tested for research and development
purposes, and if the generic chemical identity of the ingredients is disclosed
[section 9(2) of the regulation].
- Confidential Business Information A hazardous ingredient
does not have to be listed on an MSDS if its identity
is a valid trade secret.
Are disclaimer statements permitted on the supplier MSDS?
Yes, but only certain types of disclaimers. The regulation [section
25] does not allow the use of disclaimers that contain information
- not required, and
- contradicts information that is required.
The purpose of this requirement is to prohibit the use of disclaimers that
could confuse the user about the hazardous properties of a product. For example,
the following disclaimer would not be permitted:
"Although this product meets the carcinogenicity criteria there
is no substantial proof that it causes cancer."
Examples of disclaimers that would be permitted are:
"The information contained herein is based on data considered accurate.
However, no warranty is expressed or implied regarding the accuracy of the
data or the results obtained from the use thereof."
"This company assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property
damage to vendees, users or third parties caused by the material. Such vendees
or users assume all risks associated with the use of the material."
These disclaimers do not diminish the duty of the supplier to provide accurate
Does the MSDS have to be updated?
Yes. The MSDS has to be updated if new information becomes
available, for example, as the result of further testing of the product [section
29(1) of the regulation]. The MSDS should be updated
as soon as reasonably practicable after the new information becomes available.
If no new information becomes available in the 3 years after the MSDS
was prepared, the supplier has to review the MSDS to make
sure the information is still accurate and re-date the MSDS.
The supplier should provide the updated MSDS to customers
buying the controlled product after the change to the MSDS
was made. The supplier is not required to send the updated
MSDS to previous customers [section 29(2)
of the regulation].
What are the language requirements of the supplier MSDS?
The supplier MSDS must be available in French and English
at the time of sale or importation. There can be one bilingual document or
separate French and English data sheets [section 24(1) of
Where 2 separate data sheets exist, the supplier does not have to send both
to the employer unless so requested. If no request is made, the supplier would
send an MSDS to the employer in the language normally used
in the course of the business transaction [section 24(2)
of the regulation].
What is a generic MSDS and when is the supplier
permitted to prepare one?
A generic MSDS is one that applies to a group of controlled
products instead of just one. Its use is permitted when the chemical composition
of a group of controlled products is similar, for example, a group of paints
where the only difference between products is the pigment used.
For any one product, if either the concentration of an ingredient or the
hazard information differs from that of other products in the group, these
differences must be disclosed on the MSDS.
A generic MSDS must include the names of all products
to which it applies, exactly as those names appear on the labels of the products
[section 7 of the regulation].
Imported Controlled Products
What are the duties of the supplier respecting imported controlled
For an imported controlled product, the supplier (i.e. importer) must either
prepare, or if possible obtain from the off-shore source, a supplier label
and MSDS on importation [section 14 of
There is an exemption to this general requirement [section
23(1) of the regulation]. The supplier does not have to provide a label
or MSDS on importation if 2 conditions are met:
- the controlled product is to be labelled or repackaged in Canada; and
- the supplier provides certain information about the product, and where
requested a sample of the product, to an inspector in each province into
which the product is imported.
What information must the supplier provide to an inspector?
The supplier must provide an inspector with a written statement that has
the following information:
- the intention to import the controlled product;
- the name and type (for example, acid, base, biological hazard, flammable
gas, etc.) of controlled product;
- the address of the workplace where the imported controlled product is
to be labelled or repackaged; and
- the names of all provinces into which the controlled product is to be
imported [section 23(1)(a) of the regulation].
This written statement is valid for 3 years [section 23(2)
of the regulation].
In addition to the written statement, the inspector also has the right to
request the following from the supplier:
- a sample of the controlled product, on or before importation;
- the dates and places of importation; and
- the approximate quantity of the controlled product to be imported [section
23(1)(b) of the regulation].
The imported controlled product cannot be used or sold without a label or
MSDS [sections 23(3) and (4) of the regulation].
What are the labelling duties of the supplier if the imported
controlled product is delivered directly to the workplace of the buyer?
In general, the supplier is responsible for making sure that the controlled
product is labelled, before it is used by the buyer. There is one exemption
to this general rule. The supplier does not have to label the controlled product
if he/she has a written agreement with the buyer, that the
buyer will apply a supplier label to the controlled product [section
23(5) of the regulation].
Are there any exemptions from the federal WHMIS
Yes. The federal WHMIS legislation does not apply to the
sale or importation of any
- restricted products when packaged as consumer products;
- explosives within the meaning of the Explosives
- cosmetics, drugs, food and devices within the meaning of the Food
and Drugs Act;
- pest control products within the meaning of the Pest
Control Products Act;
- prescribed substances within the meaning of the Nuclear
- wood or products made of wood;
- manufactured articles;
- tobacco or products made of tobacco;
- hazardous wastes.
What is a restricted product?
A restricted product is a product that is sold to the public but its sale
is regulated by the federal Hazardous Products Act.
Paint stripper is an example of a restricted product. It is sold to consumers
but must be packaged and labelled according to requirements set out in the
Hazardous Products Act.
What does "packaged as a consumer product" mean?
A product is packaged as a consumer product when
- it is in a container that is available for sale to the general public,
- it meets the labelling and other packaging requirements for consumer products
under the Hazardous Products Act.
What is a manufactured article?
A manufactured article is any article which meets three conditions:
- it is formed to a specific shape or design during manufacture;
- its intended use when in that form depends in whole or in part on its
shape or design as manufactured;
- under normal conditions of use it will not release or otherwise cause
a person to be exposed to a controlled product.
"Normal conditions of use" does not include the release of a controlled product
during the installation, maintenance or misuse of a manufactured article.
The following examples are given to further explain the exemption for manufactured
- Welding rods are not manufactured articles because, although formed to
a specific design, during use they release controlled products previously
contained in the rods.
- Piping, whether made of mild, galvanized or stainless steel, is a manufactured
article because it does not release controlled products during its intended
use of conveying fluids from one point to another.
- Sheets of friction materials which contain asbestos and which are manufactured
with the intent of later being cut or shaped to form specific friction products
are not manufactured articles.
- Specific friction products which contain asbestos, such as brake shoes
fitted with pre-arced linings, disc brake pads and clutch friction plates
are manufactured articles. While workers may be exposed to asbestos fibres
during installation or maintenance of these articles, exposure is not likely
during their use for the purposes of braking or engaging moving parts.
- A cylinder produced for the purposes of containing acetylene is a manufactured
article. Once filled with acetylene, however, the cylinder is a container
for a controlled product and, when sold as such, must be provided with labels
and data sheets.
- A refrigerator is a manufactured article made up of various components
including a system for containing compressed gases. Unlike the compressed
gas cylinder, the refrigerator is not considered to be a container of a
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