The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a nationwide system to provide information on hazardous materials used in the workplace. WHMIS affects workers, employers, suppliers, and regulators. WHMIS regulations place duties on employers at any workplace covered by occupational health and safety where hazardous materials are used, stored, or handled.
WHMIS has three components:
- Labels on hazardous materials to alert employers and workers
- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to provide detailed health and safety information on the product
- Worker Education to provide instruction on hazards and training in work procedures.
Employers who use, store or handle controlled products in their workplace must do three things:
- Ensure that the MSDS is readily available to workers who work with or near the controlled product;
- Ensure that all controlled products at the workplace are properly labelled with supplier labels;
- Provide WHMIS training to employees who are required to work with or near controlled products.
At a minimum, a WHMIS training program must be tailored to each individual workplace and address the following issues:
- The contents, purpose, and significance of the information required on labels and MSDS;
- A sufficient explanation of any special labelling or identification systems used by the employer to deal with the controlled product (employees must be able to interpret its symbols);
- Procedures for the safe use, storage, handling, and disposal of controlled products;
- The proper use and care of personal protective equipment;
- Procedures for special storage systems, working in the presence of hazardous emissions and for emergencies involving controlled products;
- Product-specific training on health and safety hazards.
It is up to the employer to ensure the each worker, who is required to have WHMIS training, understands the training material and is able to put the training into practice while on the job. An employer must review the training program yearly or more often if conditions at the workplace change or if new information on a controlled product becomes available.