Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is changing. Since 1988, WHMIS has been Canada’s hazard communication system for workplace chemicals. It is a national system implemented through interlocking federal, provincial and territorial legislation and regulations.
WHMIS is changing to adopt new international standards for classifying hazardous chemicals and providing information on labels and safety data sheets. These new international standards are part of the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) and are being phased in across Canada between February 2015 and December 2018. The GHS standards have been endorsed by the United Nations. They are also being implemented in many other countries including the United States, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and members of the European Union.
The following questions and answers provide general information on the changes to WHMIS. For clarity, the old requirements are referred to as “WHMIS 1988” and the new requirements are referred to as “WHMIS 2015”.
The transition to WHMIS 2015 will take place in three phases. The first phase began on February 11, 2015 when the amended federal Hazardous Products Act and new Hazardous Products Regulations came into force. The final phase will end on December 1, 2018. During this period, WHMIS 1988 will be slowly phased out as outlined below.
Phase 1 began on February 11, 2015 and will end on May 31, 2017. During Phase 1:
As of June 1, 2017, chemical manufacturers and importers must sell hazardous products with labels and safety data sheets that comply with the new WHMIS 2015 requirements.
Phase 2 begins on June 1, 2017 and ends on May 31, 2018. During Phase 2:
As of June 1, 2018, distributors must sell hazardous products that comply with WHMIS 2015 requirements only. The transition to WHMIS 2015 will be complete for all suppliers.
Phase 3 begins on June 1, 2018 and ends on November 30, 2018. During Phase 3:
By December 1, 2018, the transition to WHMIS 2015 must be complete for all parties. There should be no hazardous products in the workplace with old WHMIS labels and safety data sheets.
Effective July 1, 2016, the Ministry of Labour will enforce the new provincial WHMIS 2015 requirements. It will also continue to enforce the WHMIS 1988 requirements for as long as they remain applicable to employers and workers (i.e. until December 1, 2018).
This will ensure that products that comply with either the old or new WHMIS requirements can be used in the workplace, and that workers are properly trained while both sets of requirements are in place.
With respect to the federal WHMIS requirements, the Ministry of Labour has enforced the new WHMIS requirements in the Hazardous Products Act (HPA) and new Hazardous Products Regulations since February 11, 2015. The ministry will also continue to enforce the old requirements in the former HPA and former Controlled Products Regulations for as long as they remain applicable to manufacturers and importers (i.e. until May 31, 2017) and distributors (until May 31, 2018).
Yes. During the transition, employers must ensure that workers are trained on:
The type and amount of training will depend on whether a product is new to the workplace and/or newly classified as a hazardous product.
A generic worker training course is available for a small fee online from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).
Under WHMIS 2015, “controlled products” are called “hazardous products” and there are:
The key responsibilities of suppliers, employers and workers are the same under WHMIS 2015.
WHMIS has remained largely unchanged since it was established in 1988. It is a comprehensive system for communicating information about hazardous workplace chemicals. However, there are health and safety benefits to adopting the new GHS standards.
Adopting GHS standards for hazardous workplace chemicals will also facilitate international trade in chemicals and enhance the competitiveness of Canadian suppliers.
Both the federal and Ontario governments have consulted stakeholders on the changes to WHMIS legislation.
There are no substantive changes to the process to claim an exemption from disclosing confidential business information (CBI). For a period of time, suppliers and employers claiming exemptions under the federal Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA) may file claims for safety data sheets and/or labels that comply with either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 requirements. The claimant will have to indicate this information on the application form.
Active claims do not need to be resubmitted. Product labels and safety data sheets must, however, comply with the Hazardous Products Act and associated regulations. If a decision has been issued for a claim prior to the coming-into-force of WHMIS 2015, there is no requirement to submit a WHMIS 2015 safety data sheet or label prior to the expiry of the claim unless specifically requested to do so. More information is available at Confidential Business Information – Transition to WHMIS 2015.
Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.
It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.
While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.