The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is Canada's national hazard communication standard. The key elements of the system are cautionary labelling of containers of WHMIS "controlled products", the provision of material safety data sheets (MSDSs) and worker education and training programs.
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WHMIS represents an excellent example of synchronization and cooperation amongst the federal, provincial and territorial governments. This coordinated approach avoided duplication, inefficiency through loss of scale and the interprovincial trade barriers that would have been created had each province and territory established its own hazard communication system. The federal Hazardous Products Act established the national standard for chemical classification and hazard communication in Canada and is the foundation for the workers' "right-to-know" legislation enacted in every province and territory. A single national system for a mobile labour force also minimized confusion and facilitated implementation of the system.
Consistent with this synchronized approach, the WHMIS initiative also represents an excellent example of consensus-building public engagement. Industry, organized labour and all governments actively participated in the development of WHMIS, and this national program represents a consensus amongst stakeholders. The program, a shared responsibility, continues to evolve through consensus.
WHMIS is implemented through coordinated federal, provincial and territorial legislation. Supplier labelling and MSDS requirements are set out under the federal Hazardous Products Act and associated Controlled Products Regulations. All of the provincial, territorial and federal agencies responsible for occupational safety and health have established WHMIS employer requirements within their respective jurisdictions. These requirements obligate employers to ensure that controlled products used, stored, handled or disposed of in the workplace are properly labelled, that MSDSs are made available to workers, and that workers receive education and training to ensure the safe storage, handling, use and disposal of controlled products in the workplace.
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Directorate (WHMD), within Health Canada, coordinates the administration of the national Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) program and also serves as the secretariat for the federal, provincial and territorial government partnership program. In addition, when a supplier or employer wants to be exempt from having to disclose confidential business information, such as the chemical identity of one or more hazardous ingredients, they must file a claim for exemption with the WHMD. The Directorate decides whether a claim for exemption for disclosure is valid by reviewing the information provided by the claimant on the claim for exemption.
Pursuant to a formal agreement with the government of each province and territory and with the Minister responsible for the Labour Program at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, this site is developed and maintained by the National WHMIS Office in consultation with and on behalf of all federal, provincial and territorial government WHMIS regulatory authorities. It provides a single-window for all national policies and information related to this program in Canada:
Canadian Supplier / Canadian Importer
Application - Regulatory Requirements
Frequently Asked Questions / Related Issues