We Canadians are generally a safety-conscious bunch. We wear seatbelts when driving, helmets when riding bikes, and have smoke alarms monitoring our homes. But what about your workplace? Do your employees feel safe at work?
The average Canadian employee spends close to 2,000 hours per year—or more than 80 full days—at their place of employment. That’s one of many reasons why it’s so important for employers to make safety a top priority.
The basics of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
According to the 2020 Report on Work Fatality and Injury Rates in Canada, there were 1,027 work-related worker deaths in 2020, an increase of 76 from 2017. Ontario (along with New Brunswick) led the way, with 15 percent higher injury rates among provinces with more than 100,000 employees. One death or injury on the job is one too many.
That’s where the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, or WHMIS, plays a vital role, creating a national program designed to ensure employers’ and employees’ safety in the workplace. With many workplace-related injuries caused by the mishandling of chemicals and other hazardous materials, it is essential employees receive the proper training with such products to ensure not only their own safety, but the safety of others.
All workplaces in Canada where employees may encounter hazardous materials must meet government regulations and ensure a comprehensive WHMIS training program is in place, which is designed to ensure the safety of all Canadian workers. While health and safety levels vary depending on the focus of the company and the number of employees, compliance needs to be a priority.
The WHMIS 2015 training, now aligned with the Worldwide Hazard Communication System and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, has allowed for new hazard classes to be added, more comprehensive hazard classification criteria, standardized language around hazard and precautionary statements, and consistent SDS format requirements.
Through identification and product classification, labelling, safety data sheets, and worker education and training, keeping employees protected involves continual education, training, and financial support. While workplace injuries will still happen, taking a proactive approach allows organizations to reduce potential workplace hazards.
How do I keep employees informed and up-to-date on WHMIS?
There also needs to be a consistent flow of communication between employers and their employees to ensure WHMIS training is completed annually or at least no more than three years between retraining. As you update your organization’s WHMIS policy, be sure to keep all employees aware of the changes with a communications of policy change letter so that your entire team can stay compliant.
Sometimes employees may push back against training; for example, if new employees say they were trained at their last job, a notice to staff regarding WHMIS training requirement can give you the support to explain why training is necessary to update.
HRdownloads members have access to customizable templates, including letters, policies, memos, and more through their HR Fundamentals membership, making it even easier to get the job done.
Who is responsible for employee safety in the workplace?
Education and training only work if employees understand their importance, so employers bear a significant responsibility for both facilitating and verifying that understanding. This can’t be met by providing training once and then assuming employees will retain the correct knowledge and stay updated throughout their employment.
Different employees require different approaches, depending on their circumstances, but every Canadian worker needs to have WHMIS training to understand how to properly use hazardous products in case they come across them in their daily work routine. From construction workers and cleaners to lab workers and automotive workers, we all need to know how to stay safe.
This shared responsibility even includes suppliers, who have to provide updated safety data sheets (SDSs) and inform their customers of changes. Employers must ensure they have correct information from suppliers, and it may be necessary to use a supplier risk assessment form if hazardous products are entering the workplace without the right information, or at least an SDS information form to request data where the existing information seems incomplete or erroneous. Both of these forms are available to HRdownloads members in our unlimited content library, HR Fundamentals.
When information is wrong, or employees have doubts about labels, make sure they know whom to report these concerns to, and that whoever is responsible takes these reports seriously. Information like this is covered through HRdownloads’ new animated WHMIS training module.
Discover engaging online WHMIS training for employees
As you can see, protecting employee health and safety is a never-ending task, and WHMIS needs to be part of any employer’s everyday compliance when there are hazardous materials present in the workplace. Employers should make a habit of revisiting health and safety practices regularly—not just when legislation commands.
Starting to think it might be time to get your team up to date on WHMIS? Our WHMIS 2015 Animated Training is now available on our online training platform in both comprehensive and refresher versions. The story-based approach helps learners understand complex topics in a more engaging way. Check out the WHIMIS trailer on YouTube!
Find out more about this course and our full library of trainings by talking to one of our representatives today!