Employers will have until 2018 to comply with the WHMIS 2015: are you ready?

Employers will have until 2018 to comply with the WHMIS 2015: are you ready?


The WHMSI aims to protect the health and safety of workers by promoting access to information about hazardous materials used at work. WHMIS is a pan-Canadian system in which suppliers, employers and workers have their own responsibilities. This system is governed by federal and provincial laws and regulations. Any person providing or using hazardous products must comply with it.

Since February 11, 2015, the date the Hazard Products Regulation (HPR) entered into force, the WHMIS is now integrated into the (GHS) Globally Harmonized System to standardize the information concerning hazardous materials, regardless of the origin. The harmonized system is now named WHMIS 2015.

The WHMIS 2015 is effective in Canada since February 11, 2015, whereas the overall federal and provincial legislation is since June 3, 2015. The transition period with its three phases will end for manufacturers and importers on June 1, 2017, for distributors on June 1, 2018, and for employers on December 1, 2018.


WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015: important changes

The WHMIS 1988 (Controlled Products Regulation) classifies hazardous materials in six main categories, as the WHMIS 2015 (CPR) contains 31 categories of danger from two types of classes: physical hazard and health hazard.

The main modifications between the standard 1988 and WHMIS 2015:

  • The number of sections increases from 9 to 16, and their order of presentation, as well as their titles and contents, has been standardized;
  • The information on each section must be found in the SDSs, except the information found in sections 12 to 15 that is optional;
  • Safety advices as well as warning and danger statements are standardized according to the hazardous material properties;
  • For mixes, only hazardous ingredients shall be indicated in the data sheet;
  • The concentration ranges of the ingredients disclosed in the SDS must be real; there is no more predefined concentration according to the regulation.

3 key elements to comply with the legislation

1. The Safety Data Sheet (SDS)

The SDS has 4 main functions. It provides information about the product identification and the supplier, the hazards present, which means the physical hazards and health and safety hazards. It also indicates the appropriate interventions according to each different situation, for example, first aid, fire or accidental spills. This document replaces the material safety data sheet and must contain the following 16 sections:

  1. Identification
  2. Hazard identification
  3. Composition/information on ingredients
  4. First-aid measures
  5. Fire-fighting measures
  6. Accidental release measures
  7. Handling and storage
  8. Exposure controls/personal protection
  9. Physical and chemical properties
  10. Stability and reactivity
  11. Toxicological information
  12. Ecological information
  13. Disposal considerations
  14. Transport information
  15. Regulatory information
  16. Other information

2. Supplier label

This is a label affixed on packages by the supplier. They must contain the following information.

  • Product identifier – the exact product name as appearing on the safety data sheet.
  • Pictogram(s) – corresponding to the classes and categories of hazards for which the hazardous product is attributed.
  • Signal word – a word such as “Danger” or “Warning” used to alert the reader to a potential hazard and to indicate the severity of the hazard.
  • Hazard statement(s) – standardized phrases which describe the nature of the hazard posed by a hazardous product.
  • Precautionary statement(s) – standardized phrases that describe measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous product or resulting from improper handling or storage of a hazardous product.
  • Initial supplier identifier – the name, address and telephone number of either the Canadian manufacturer or the Canadian importer*.

3. Workplace label

Workplace labels are affixed by the employer on packages of products used on site, or when transferred into another container. The label and signage must be clearly displayed, on a visible surface, under normal use conditions of the product.

The workplace label must display the following elements:

  • The name of the product as displayed on the safety data sheet
  • General precautionary statements and those concerning prevention, intervention, storage and disposal
  • Reference to the safety data sheet


This table presents the equivalences between WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015. Considering all subdivisions of this new classification, the exact match between the WHMIS 1988 categories and the WHMIS 2015 hazard classes is not always possible.