What are hazardous materials?
Hazardous materials are chemicals or physical agents regulated under the provisions of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods and Regulations (TDG) legislation. These are dangerous products that may cause short- or long-term health problems or damage to the environment.
Hazardous materials are a fact of life in many workplaces, and if handled incorrectly, could cause injuries, illnesses or fatalities. According to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), 23,789 workers suffered lost-time injuries related to chemical exposure during 1999 to 2008. When employees and employers are aware of the hazards around them and know how to take necessary precautions, the risk of an injury, illness or fatality is significantly minimized.
What the law says
WHMIS applies to all workplaces governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The overall purpose of WHMIS is to help ensure a safer and healthier workplace. Please refer to the WHMIS topic page for additional information about this regulation.
There are also responsibilities under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods and Regulations for companies that ship, handle or receive dangerous goods. People who handle, ship, carry or receive dangerous goods must be fully qualified, trained and certified for their work.
How hazardous materials can affect your business
Most workplaces use one or more hazardous materials and these materials have the capability of causing serious illness, potential death to your workers, and serious impact on the environment. Explosions, fires and spills may also occur resulting in catastrophic loss to buildings, equipment and supplies. The human and financial toll of improper handling, storage and disposal could be severe.
What you can do
Make sure that your workplace has a WHMIS program in place and that your employees have been properly trained on how to use and store these controlled substances. If your company ships, receives or carries dangerous goods, ensure that you are compliant with TDG and that your workers are fully qualified, trained and certified to do this work. Contact your health and safety provider for information about the WHMIS and/or TDG training they offer.