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Canada has aligned the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).
This document discusses the WHMIS requirements after the alignment of WHMIS with the GHS. Information in this document is based on the federal legislation – the amended Hazardous Products Act and the new Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR).
Health Canada is the government body responsible for making the required changes to the overall federal WHMIS-related laws. Note that WHMIS-related occupational health and safety regulations for the provinces, territories and federally regulated workplaces will also require updating.
While much is known with the federal legislation updates, legislative updates for each provincial or territorial jurisdiction may affect some of the information in this document.
The WHMIS 2015 legislation is currently in force. "In force" means that suppliers may begin to use and follow the new requirements for labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada. However, there is a transition period with various stages. At the outset of the transition period, the supplier must fully comply with either the repealed Controlled Products Regulations (WHMIS 1988) or the HPR (WHMIS 2015) for a specific controlled or hazardous product. The classification, label and (material) SDS must comply fully with the specific regulation chosen by the supplier, and not be a combination of the two.
Please refer to the following other OSH Answers documents for more information:
In Canada, WHMIS legislation requires that products used in the workplace that meet the criteria to be classified as hazardous products must be labelled.
Labels are the first alert to the user about the major hazards associated with that product, and outline the basic precautions or safety steps that should be taken.
In most cases, suppliers are responsible for labelling the hazardous products that they provide to customers. Note: Labels should be affixed to, printed or written on, or attached to the hazardous product or the container and remain legible. Providing a WHMIS 2015 label along with the shipping papers would not be considered to be in compliance.
Employers are responsible for making sure that hazardous products that come into the workplace are labelled and to prepare and apply a workplace label when appropriate.
Yes. There are two main types of WHMIS labels: supplier labels, and workplace labels.
Suppliers of hazardous products are required to apply a label that meets the requirements of the Hazardous Products Regulations. If the hazardous product is always used in the container with the supplier label, no other label is required.
A workplace label is required when:
There are two situations when a workplace label is not necessary. When a hazardous product is:
If the product is not used right away or if more than one person will be in control of the product, a full workplace label is required. Note that a company may have specific rules about labelling containers that are above or exceed the WHMIS requirements.
NOTE that requirements for workplace labels are regulated by your local provincial or territorial jurisdiction. Check with your jurisdiction for more information.
Supplier labels must be in both official languages of Canada (English and French). They may be bilingual (as one label), or available as two labels (one each in English and French). Providing a supplier label in just English or French would not be considered to be in compliance.
The supplier label must include the following information:
* Initial supplier identifier – There are two exceptions to this requirement:
A signal word is a prompt that alerts you about the degree or level of hazard of the product. There are only two signal words used: "Danger" or "Warning". "Danger" is used for high risk hazards, while "Warning" is used for less severe hazards. If a signal word is assigned to a hazard class and category, it must be shown on the label, and listed in section 2 (Hazards Identification) of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
Some hazard classes or categories do not have a signal word assigned to them.
Each hazard class and category has an assigned "hazard statement". Hazard statements are brief, standardized sentences that tell you more about the exact hazard of the product. The statements are short but they describe the most significant hazards of the product.
Examples of hazard statements are:
The wording of the hazard statement helps to describe the degree of the hazard. For example: "May cause cancer" is more hazardous than "Suspected of causing cancer".
Precautionary statements provide advice on how to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous product or resulting from improper storage or handling of a hazardous product. These statements can include instructions about storage, handling, first aid, personal protective equipment and emergency measures. Like the hazard statements, the wording of precautionary statements is standardized and harmonized.
There are five types of precautionary statements:
Examples of precautionary statements are:
Precautionary statements will be consistent with the degree of the hazard associated with the product.
The use of the slash (/) or the dots (...) are intended as instructions to the supplier to help them prepare the label and SDS.
For example, the guidance material from GHS lists the following precautionary statement "Wear protective gloves/protective clothing/eye protection/face protection."
The slash (/) means the supplier is to specify the appropriate type of equipment based on their knowledge of the product and how it is used. So, for example, this statement could appear as:
Another example is "Do not subject to grinding/shock/friction/…". In this case, the supplier is to specify the applicable rough handling circumstance to avoid (grinding, shock and/or friction), and the dots (...) mean they are to consider other types of rough handling that should be mentioned.
There is no set format for a supplier label. As mentioned, labels must be in English and French. They may be bilingual (as one label), or be presented as two labels (one each in English and French).
Labels will require the following:
An example of a bilingual label is shown below:
Note that the hatched border that was required under WHMIS 1988 is not required under WHMIS 2015. However, it is also not forbidden to use the hatched border, so you may see it on a WHMIS 2015 label.
A label will be required to be updated when the supplier becomes aware of any "significant new data". According to the regulation, the definition of significant new data is:
"New data regarding the hazard presented by a hazardous product that changes its classification in a category or subcategory of a hazard class, or result in its classification in another hazard class, or change the ways to protect against the hazard presented by the hazardous product." (Source: Canada Gazette, Part II, Hazardous Products Regulations, Section 5.12 (1))
Labels will be required to be updated within 180 days of the supplier being aware of the new information. If you purchase a product within this 180 day time period, the supplier must inform you of the changes, and the date they became available, in writing.
It is anticipated that employers will be required to update the existing labels or the information on the containers as soon as the significant new information is provided by the supplier. Watch for confirmation, updates, or changes to these requirements when the WHMIS regulations in your jurisdiction are updated.
It is anticipated that a workplace label will require the following information:
Workplace label requirements fall under your provincial or territorial jurisdiction, or under the Canada Labour Code if you work in a federally regulated workplace. Again, watch for confirmation, updates, or changes to these requirements when the WHMIS regulations in your jurisdiction are updated.
In specific cases, yes. A WHMIS label can also be a mark, sign, stamp, sticker, seal, ticket, tag, or wrapper. It can be attached, imprinted, stencilled or embossed on the hazardous product or its container. Workers must be trained to be able to identify these alternate systems if they are used in the workplace.
Variations on the supplier label apply for specific situations such as:
A fold-out or accordion style label is allowed if there is not enough space on the product to provide a label that meets the legibility requirements of the Hazardous Products Regulations. Note that:
If a hazardous product is packaged in more than one container, each container (e.g., the outer container, the inner container, and any intermediate container, if applicable) must be fully labelled. There are two exemptions that may apply:
Note that other exemptions may apply, such as the small capacity container (≤100 mL).
The Hazardous Products Regulations were published in Canada Gazette, Part II on February 11, 2015. Both the amended Hazardous Products Act and new regulations are currently in force. "In force" means that suppliers may begin to use and follow the new requirements for labels and SDSs for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada.
During the transition period, the supplier must fully comply with either the repealed Controlled Products Regulations (WHMIS 1988) or the HPR (WHMIS 2015) for a specific controlled or hazardous product. The classification, label and (material) SDS must comply fully with the specific regulation chosen by the supplier, and not be a combination of the two.
As such, during the transition period, you may receive hazardous products that follow either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 requirements.
Also during the transition period, there may be situations where a supplier or employer wants to re-label a WHMIS 1988 product with a WHMIS 2015 label. A new WHMIS 2015 label can be affixed (attached) over an existing WHMIS 1988 label. The new WHMIS 2015 label should completely cover the existing WHMIS 1988 label as well as meet the durability requirements of the Hazardous Products Regulations.
Remember that when a product is re-labelled for WHMIS 2015, the supplier must provide, or the employer must also have the corresponding WHMIS 2015 compliant SDS for that same hazardous product.
For more information on the transition period, please see the WHMIS 2015 - General OSH Answers.
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