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10. WHMIS Frequently Asked Questions

  • ISBN: 978-1-4249-6996-8
  • Revised: August 2008
  • Content last reviewed: June 2009

This guideline is being updated to reflect changes that take effect July 1, 2016 as amendments to the WHMIS regulation, Regulation 860, come into force.

Do I require an MSDS and a label for a can of WD-40® that was purchased at the local hardware store?

No. Aerosol cans sold and packaged as retail products are classified as restricted consumer products under Part II of Schedule I of the Hazardous Products Act. Restricted consumer products do not require a WHMIS label and data sheet as a condition of sale. Additionally, the Ontario WHMIS regulation exempts employers from having to acquire a label and MSDS for any consumer product that is purchased from a retail outlet.

Does this exemption still apply if I receive my WD-40® from an industrial supply house?

Yes. As long as the restricted consumer product is sold to the employer in the same packaging that is available to the general public it is exempt from the WHMIS requirements. If the packaging is different than that available to the public, and if the product is a controlled product it will require a WHMIS label and MSDS as a condition of sale.

A contract janitorial service does the cleaning in our office. Who is responsible for training the cleaning staff?

The owner or employer of the janitorial service is responsible for training his or her employees regarding the controlled products they use. If the cleaning staff work in proximity to any controlled products used in the office, then the owner or employer of the office would be required to give information about the products to the janitorial service. The employer of the janitorial service would then be required to train his or her employees on these additional controlled products.

If I use a pesticide in my workplace are there any WHMIS requirements that I have to comply with?

If the pesticide is also a controlled product, the employer is required to train the workers who use or work in proximity to the pesticide. Additionally, any time the product is transferred into another container, such as a sprayer, a workplace label would be required for the second container.

If our company makes a controlled product for our own use, do we have to make supplier labels and data sheets if we ship this product to another one of our plants?

No. A shipment of a controlled product within a company organization is not considered to be sale or distribution as defined by the Hazardous Products Act, therefore, supplier labels would not be required. The employer is responsible for producing a workplace label and an MSDS.

Do all individual samples of blood being sent to an independent laboratory for analysis require labelling?

If the blood samples are classified as controlled products each individual sample would require a label. The label required for these samples would have to meet the lab sample label requirements.

Are controlled products that are shipped from an American parent company to a Canadian subsidiary required to be labelled?

Shipments between American and Canadian divisions of a company are not considered to be internal transfers. As such the Canadian division is required to meet the duties of an importer under the Hazardous Products Act. This means that supplier labels and MSDSs are required before the product can be used or sold in Canada.

As a manufacturer of a controlled product that is only sold as a bulk shipment, am I still required to produce a label for my product?

Not if you do not want to. The information required on the label does have to be transmitted, however, this can be accomplished by putting the information on the material safety data sheet or in a separate letter.

Do fire extinguishers require WHMIS labels?

Depending upon what type of extinguisher it is, a fire extinguisher may be classified as a controlled product. Many extinguishers will meet the compressed gas criteria and will therefore require a WHMIS label. Additionally, the characteristics of the extinguishing medium need to be addressed.

Are the reagents in a medical diagnostic kit considered to be controlled products?

No. Under the Food and Drugs Act anything used in the diagnosis of a disease meets the definition of a drug. Medical diagnostics fall within this definition and therefore do not require a label or data sheet under the Hazardous Products Act.

Does any mode of identification in the WHMIS regulations include size and shape?

Yes. If the worker education program enabled a worker to identify a controlled product by the size or shape of its container, then this would be satisfactory. As an example, process piping in a plant could be identified by diameter, e.g. 4″ or 10″ diameter pipe.

If a drug that is a controlled product is produced in my factory, do I have to make an MSDS even though the drug is covered by the Food and Drugs Act?

An MSDS has to be made for your own workers exposed to the drug during its manufacture. No MSDS is required in order to sell the drug to another workplace.

If data sheets from other countries have all of the required data on them, do they meet the WHMIS requirements?

Although many data sheets from foreign suppliers appear quite detailed, this alone may not be sufficient. The Controlled Products Regulation requires that data sheets be structured with nine categories of information. Unless data sheets address the information required in these nine areas, they do not meet the requirements of Federal law.

Am I required to make an MSDS for a compressed air system I use in a paint spray booth?

If the pressure in the compressed air system meets the requirements for inclusion in Class A compressed gas, then a data sheet has to be prepared.

We make plating solutions in-house for our own use. If we have data sheets from our suppliers, do we still have to make an MSDS for the solution we make up?

Yes. Provincial law requires that an employer produce a data sheet for controlled products that are made for in-house use. The plating solutions are a combination of two or more chemicals. The properties of the solution will be different than the properties of the individual chemicals used to make up the plating solution. The data sheets from the suppliers can be used as a starting point for the preparation of the in-house data sheet.

Lab technicians at my plant deal with over 5000 chemicals. Do I have to train each technician on each and every chemical?

No. The training program allows for flexibility in the type of training provided to workers. Lab workers, as an example, may be trained on groups or families of chemicals with similar properties. The training program may also require that the first step in any analytical procedure is to consult the MSDS for the chemicals to be used. The success of the training program would be judged by whether or not the lab technician could work safely with any chemical he/she was asked to use.

Am I allowed to turn the training program over to the worker side of the Health and Safety Committee and ask them to develop it?

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the employer has a clear responsibility to provide training to his/her workers. If the employer so wishes, he/she may delegate the development and implementation of the training program to the Health and Safety Committee. It must be emphasized that this in no way relinquishes the employer from fulfilling his/her duties to ensure that the training is developed and provided.

Do volunteer workers at a hospital require training regarding any controlled products they may use?

No. Training on the use of controlled products is only required for workers under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. As volunteers do not meet the definition of a worker, no training is legally required. However, employers are strongly encouraged to train volunteers who handle controlled products, or are exposed to any other potential workplace hazards. Although not legally required, providing such training can only be considered part of being a responsible employer.

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