Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems (“WHMIS”) is a legislative and regulatory collection of informational systems, education courses and workplace requirements designed to make Canadian workplaces as safe as possible for workers who handle controlled products. 

WHMIS requirements place the responsibility on employers to ensure the health and safety of workers who may be exposed to WHMIS controlled products.  Employers must ensure that workers are educated about the hazards of controlled products through general and workplace-specific WHMIS training, required product labelling and readily accessible Material Safety Data Sheets.

The requirements set out in WHMIS 1988 (and in analogous provincial legislation), are being updated as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (“GHS”) is incorporated into WHMIS 1988. The legislation is now collectively known as WHMIS 2015.

The Provinces are following suit and have amended or are in the process of amending their provincial legislation to fall in line with the GHS standard and to ensure standardization both nationally and internationally.

A multi-year transition phase will be in effect which will allow the use of both the WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 systems as follows:

  1. When an employer receives products with only WHMIS 1988 labels and Safety Data Sheets, employees may use the products if they have received training in the requirements of WHMIS 1988.
  2. When an employer receives products with both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 labels as well as Safety Data Sheets, employees may use the products if they have received training in either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015.

The legislative changes will be implemented across Canada over a three year period:

Phase One – Suppliers and employers will be able to comply with either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 from the date that the applicable provincial regulations come into force until May 31, 2017.

Phase Two – WHMIS 1988 Labels and Safety Data Sheets are gradually going to be phased out, starting at the top of the supply chain (manufacturers and importers), working through to distributors (June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018).

Phase Three – Full compliance with WHMIS 2015 will be implemented at the workplace level (June 1, 2018 to December 1, 2018).

In Saskatchewan, the provincial government has been seeking feedback from stakeholders in relation to proposed amendments to the WHMIS regulations found in The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996.  Consultations will remain open until April 15, 2015 so the window of opportunity to provide feedback is soon to close.

The status of the WHMIS changes in other provincial jurisdictions can be found at www.whmis.org.