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WHMIS: what you need to know about hazardous materials in the workplace

WHMIS 2015

The national standard that Canada uses to classify, label, and communicate information about hazardous products in the workplace is known as WHMIS 2015. WHMIS stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.

This standard aligns with a global system known as GHS which stands for the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

Hazardous products that are used and stored in the workplace are classified according to WHMIS 2015 requirements.  As a result, employers have the duty to educate and train workers on the requirements of WHMIS 2015.

On this page, you will find key information to help employers fulfill this responsibility. The training will provide the opportunity to discover what your legal duties are, and how WHMIS 2015 is being enforced in both provincially and federally regulated workplaces.

History and program evolution

WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) is a Canada-wide hazard communication standard for protecting the health and safety of workers who use, store and handle hazardous chemicals. WHMIS has been aligned with the Globally Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Since the integration with GHS, it's was rebranded as WHMIS 2015. Organisations in Canada had a 3 year period to transition to WHMIS 2015 from WHMIS 1988, and a deadline to be completely implemented and compliant was set for December 1, 2018.

The GHS was developed by the United Nations to replace an assortment of national hazard classification systems (toxic, harmful, hazardous, depending on the country) with one global set of rules for communicating hazard information.

By incorporating GHS standards, WHMIS 2015 provides more detailed and consistent hazard information, making it easier for workers to recognize hazards and protect themselves, and for workplaces to comply with legislated requirements.

While WHMIS 2015 includes new harmonized criteria for hazard classification and requirements for labels and safety data sheets (SDS), the roles and responsibilities for suppliers, employers and workers have not changed.

So what are the roles and responsibilities under WHMIS 2015?

Suppliers, defined as persons who, in the course of business, sell or import a hazardous product, will continue to:

  • Identify whether their products are hazardous products; and,
  • Prepare labels and SDSs and provide these to purchasers of hazardous products intended for use in a workplace.

Employers will continue to:

  • Ensure hazardous products used in the workplace are properly labeled and are accompanied by safety data sheets.
  • Train workers on how to use labels and data sheets to help protect their health and safety.
  • Train workers on the hazards and safe use of hazardous products in the workplace.
  • Provide workers with access to up-to-date SDSs and labels.
  • Ensure appropriate control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of workers

Workers will continue to:

  • Participate in WHMIS 2015 and chemical safety training programs;
  • Take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers; and,
  • Participate in identifying and controlling hazards.

How Are WHMIS 2015 Requirements Being Enforced in Ontario?

Here is how enforcement is being carried out in:

Provincially-Regulated Workplaces (Ontario): As of July 1, 2016, the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has been responsible for enforcing the provincial WHMIS 2015 requirements.

Federally-Regulated Workplaces: Your workplace falls under the Canada Labour Code with enforcement carried out by the Labour Program of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in partnership with Transport Canada and the National Energy Board.

How Do I Show Compliance with WHMIS 2015 Requirements?

In order to show compliance with WHMIS 2015 requirements, employers must be able to show Inspectors:

  • They have programs and procedures in place.
  • The products being used have labels that meet WHMIS 2015 requirements.
  • Education and training records are being kept (both generic and workplace-specific).

What Are My Next Steps?

WSPS offers these suggestions to help you meet the new requirements:

  • Ensure your workplace is WHMIS 2015 compliant
  • Review and revise in-house inventories, processes, training programs and materials to reflect WHMIS 2015 requirements.
  • Provide generic training to workplace parties on WHMIS 2015 hazard groups and classes and on the content and format of labels and SDS. This training applies to both hazardous products that have been used previously in the workplace but now have WHMIS 2015 labels, and hazardous products that are new to the workplace.
  • Provide workplace-specific training to workers on the safe use, handling, storage and disposal of hazardous products that are new to the workplace or have been newly classified as hazardous under WHMIS 2015. This training is essential for workers who are handling chemicals for the first time.

How WSPS Can Help

WSPS can help you with your WHMIS 2015 training needs and more.


To arrange for the help of a WSPS consultant, call 1-877-494-WSPS (9777) or 905-614-1400.

Online Training & Certification

WHMIS 2015 Online Training (1-hour online eCourse)

Deliver In-House Training

Do you prefer to provide in-house WHMIS 2015 training using a ready-made program? This solution is designed for you: WHMIS 2015 Train the Trainer  (1-day instructor-led training for those leading the program)

This course equips participants with the knowledge, skills & resources to deliver generic WHMIS 2015 training in-house to workers. In effect, it authorizes your company trainers to do unlimited, in-house, instructor-led WHMIS 2015 worker training and provides them with everything they need to train the first 10 participants - after this, then you can buy additional print packages.

Related Signage & Materials

(M)SDS Management Service™

Managing chemical safety and WHMIS compliance just got easier.

Now available through WSPS, the CCOHS online (M)SDSs Management Service™ puts all of your material/safety data sheets (M/SDS) in one convenient, secure location for your staff to access anytime. The service also:

  • Keeps your M/SDS current
  • Makes them available anytime to an unlimited number of users
  • Offers choice from an English or French interface
  • Gives you complimentary access to the CCOHS full library of over 400,000 M/SDSs for chemical products and to the CMEMINFO database of comprehensive, practical information on workplace chemicals.

Find out how easy and cost-effective it is to have a customized, current and complete M/SDS collection. 

For more information, call 1-877-494-WSPS (9777).

Still have questions? Visit WHMIS Frequently Asked Questions to get answers on common questions and more.