Ontario's New WHMIS regulation: 2 key changes, plus implementation tips

Jul 29, 2016

WHMIS 2015As of July 1, Ontario moved one step closer to full alignment with WHMIS 2015, the new national standard for classifying, labelling and communicating information about hazardous products in the workplace. This was the day on which amendments to Ontario's WHMIS Regulation came into force - amendments that affect your workplace. We can help you understand the changes and start complying.

WSPS eNews asked Wagish Yajaman, supervisor of WSPS' Technical Services, about the changes and how to get ready for full implementation of WHMIS 2015. Wagish cited two notable changes.

1. Employer responsibilities for updating labels and SDSs - "Employers no longer have to update safety data sheets (SDSs) every three years," explains Wagish. "Now employers must update product labels and safety data sheets as soon as practicable when 'significant new data' become available. Updating your information as changes occur is less onerous and ensures you have correct information on hand when you need it." As for "significant new data," it refers to anything that changes a hazard product's classification, moves it into another class, or changes the ways to protect against the hazard.1

2. Who must be trained - "Now every worker who 'may be exposed in the course of his or her work' to a hazardous or controlled product must be trained, instead of every worker who works 'with or in proximity to.' Watch for guidance from government sources on what "'may be exposed in the course of work' could entail," says Wagish.

These and other changes in the amendments will help align Ontario's WHMIS legislation with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) now being adopted worldwide. Your employees and your business will benefit.2

Ontario workplaces that use hazardous products have until December 1, 2018 to be fully compliant, but the transition process has already begun. Your workplace may already have hazardous products with both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs.

6 steps to start taking now

"WHMIS 2015 is an ideal opportunity for production, safety and purchasing to work together, making sure hazardous products have the proper labelling and MSDSs or SDSs," says Wagish. He suggests following these six steps.

  1. Establish and maintain an accurate list of all hazardous products. "This is the only way to ensure you know what chemicals are in your workplace and whether you have corresponding MSDSs or SDSs."
  2. Review what hazardous products are no longer being used, and arrange for safe disposal. For chemicals still in use, look into substituting with safer alternatives.
  3. Verify that you have MSDSs or SDSs for each hazardous product remaining on the list.
  4. Manage your MSDSs and SDSs until hazardous products with WHMIS 2015 labels have replaced any products with WHMIS 1988 labels. Using products with WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs is still acceptable, but workplaces with hazardous products must complete the transition to WHMIS 2015 by December 1, 2018.3
  5. Ensure new chemical products entering your workplace comply with WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 labelling and MSDS/SDS requirements. Please note: after May 31, 2018 employers can no longer receive chemicals labelled under WHMIS 1988. Employers can however continue to use WHMIS 1988-labelled chemicals already in the workplace.
  6. Ensure workers have the training they need to protect themselves as your workplace transitions from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015. "One of the biggest WHMIS 2015 hurdles for employers will be ensuring employees recognize the hazard symbols and what they mean," warns Wagish. "Some of the WHMIS 2015 symbols and pictograms look very different from WHMIS 1988 symbols."

How WSPS can help

WSPS offers a number of solutions, including

1. Awareness solutions

2. Training solutions 3. Consulting

Your responsibilities don't end with proper labels, M/SDSs and worker training. You may also need the expertise of our occupational hygienists to conduct chemical substance assessments, air quality sampling, and more

Check out a complete list of WHMIS 2015 resources.

Even more solutions are in the pipeline. Watch for WHMIS 2015 for Workers: Instructor-led Training, and WHMIS 2015: Train-the-Trainer.


  1. Under WHMIS 2015, "Safety data sheets" are replacing the existing "Material Safety Data Sheets." More than the name has changed. The SDSs have new sections and types of information, as well as a different layout.
  2. Providing workers with comprehensive, actionable information on hazardous materials protects them from injury and illness. It also protects your business. WHMIS 1988 has already helped Canadian businesses avoid duplication, inefficiency through loss of scale, and interprovincial trade barriers that would have been created if each province and territory had established its own hazard communication system. GHS will do the same, but on a global scale.
  3. See a schedule of WHMIS 2015 implementation dates on WSPS' WHMIS 2015 resource page.