What is the purpose of WHMIS training?
Keeping workers safe is a top priority for any organization, and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) serves as the system for the safe handling and storing of all hazardous products that may be found in a workplace. While Training in WHMIS is required, it’s also one of the most valuable types of safety training an organization can provide. Penalties, fines, the risk of litigation, injury, and even death or dismemberment are all very real possibilities whenever safety training becomes an afterthought.
This guide aims to explain what WHMIS is and demonstrates how training affects workplace safety. Furthermore, it serves to help organizations comply with legislation and to help every worker understand their rights and responsibilities.
What is WHMIS?
In today’s fast-paced workplace, a top priority for many organizations is to harmonize innovation, productivity, and teamwork quickly and efficiently. However, every workplace has unassuming threats and hidden dangers in the form of workplace hazards. WHMIS stands as the standard system for safety and protection from hazardous products found in the workplace. It is implemented through coordinated federal, provincial, and territorial legislation and is a critical component for maintaining workplace safety.
What happened to WHMIS in 2015?
WHMIS underwent a significant overhaul in 2015, leading to key changes like controlled products now being called hazardous products, hazard classification criteria were revised and classes and categories were updated, and safety data sheets were standardized.
At the heart of WHMIS lies a detailed system of pictograms. Suppliers use pictograms on their supplier labels to visually present crucial details about hazardous substances. WHMIS pictograms work like a translator, helping us understand the complicated world of hazardous products and how to stay safe when using, storing, and disposing of them.
Below is a list of WHMIS pictograms to help you better understand the system and deliver training and education confidently. If you need help with WHMIS compliance or safety training in general, you can book a free training demo with one of our HR experts at a time that’s convenient for you.
- Exploding bomb: Materials that may explode or react if subjected to heat, shock, or pressure.
- Flame: Materials that present a fire hazard and ignite easily or burn when exposed to an open flame, spark, or heat source.
- Flame over circle: Oxidizing materials that can cause or contribute to the combustion of other materials.
- Gas cylinder: Gases under pressure that could result in an explosion or turn the container into a projectile if broken or ruptured.
- Corrosion: Materials that can cause corrosive damage to metals or severe damage to skin, eyes, and respiratory organs.
- Skull and crossbones: Hazardous materials that have an immediate and severe toxic effect, such as poisons and acids.
- Health hazard: Materials that might cause serious health issues, including respiratory or skin sensitizations, germ cell mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, and reproductive toxicity.
- Exclamation mark: Materials that may damage the ozone layer or cause less serious health effects like acute toxicity, skin corrosion or irritation, eye irritation or serious eye damage, or specific target organ toxicity.
- Biohazardous infectious material: Materials that contain organisms or toxins that can cause diseases in people or animals.
What are the two types of WHMIS labels?
There are two types of labels in WHMIS: supplier labels and workplace labels. WHMIS legislation requires labelling for any hazardous products used in the workplace. Labels are the first way of alerting a user of the major hazards associated with a product and what precautions to take with it.
Supplier labels are found on hazardous products and are put there by the supplier. A supplier label needs to be legible and appear on all hazardous products received at Canadian workplaces. If a product stays in its original supplier container and the label is kept in good condition, another label isn’t required. Supplier labels must be in both English and French. There is no set format for supplier labels under WHMIS 2015, but they must be presented in English and French, either together or as two separate labels.
WHIMS supplier labels must also:
- Have the product identifier, supplier identifier, pictograms, signal word, and hazard statements, and precautionary statements based on the hazard classification;
- Be clearly and prominently displayed on the container;
- Be legible and free of scuffs or marks; and
- Have the hazard information contrast with other information on the label; all hazards need to be distinct from the rest of the label.
Workplace label requirements differ by jurisdiction, so be sure to review the workplace label requirements in your specific jurisdiction and note any updates or changes to the requirements. Our Jurisdictional Comparison Tool is a great resource to have if your organization operates in locations across Canada. Book a free demo to see how WHMIS label requirements vary across the country, or just the jurisdictions where you operate.
WHMIS workplace labels must generally include:
- The product name, which matches the safety data sheet (SDS) product name;
- Safe handling precautions, which often include pictograms; and
- A reference to the SDS, where one is available.
Who is responsible for providing WHMIS training?
Employers are responsible for delivering WHMIS training and education to their employees. Training refers to site- and job-specific information. Training covers the specific procedures for storage, handling, use, disposal, emergency spills, and what to do in certain situations. Education is the general information about how WHMIS works and the hazards associated with any products being used, stored, or handled in a workplace. It takes a concerted effort from all parties involved to store and handle hazardous materials safely. Employers, employees, and suppliers all have various duties related to WHMIS. For example, employers must provide up-to-date and correct information about hazardous materials in the workplace, suppliers must ensure that accurate and up to date information is readily available to anyone who needs it, and employees have a duty to work safely with hazardous products.
Suppliers are responsible for providing updated SDSs, accurate labels, and informing customers of changes. Employees have a duty to attend required training and education, work safely, and follow policies and procedures for working with hazardous materials. Employers are responsible for maintaining a compliant WHMIS program in their workplace. They are also responsible for facilitating and verifying employees’ understanding of provided training and ensuring they fully grasp the importance of the education. Providing training once is not enough to ensure that employees retain the correct knowledge and stay up to date throughout their employment. If you’re unsure of your organization’s WHMIS training requirements, HRdownloads can help. We help organizations across the country comply with WHMIS requirements using resources designed to keep your workers safe.
How long does WHMIS training last?
At minimum, training and education should be refreshed every year. WHMIS training must be refreshed whenever conditions in the workplace change or when new products are introduced. Training must also be refreshed whenever any newly introduced or recently changed product results in a change to the hazards associated with them. Training must also be refreshed whenever new information becomes available concerning a product’s safe use, handling, storage, or disposal.
WHMIS keeps workers safe
Preventing workplace hazards and illnesses is the core focus of WHMIS. Hazardous products can present many health and physical hazards, not the least of which include carcinogenicity, respiratory ailments, and skin ailments. However, if workers know the hazards of the products they are using, they can protect themselves and others from harmful effects. Employers, employees, and suppliers all have responsibilities associated with maintaining a WHMIS compliant workplace. Working safely with hazardous products, asking for additional information when unsure about what precautions to take, and providing information to allow people to work safely should be the goal of any WHMIS training.
If you’re unsure about the best ways to deliver WHMIS training at your organization, HRdownloads can help. Book a free demo with our HR Experts to see our WHMIS training courses or brush up on the latest WHMIS legislation.