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Environmental and Workplace Health

Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System - Official National Site

Logo for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

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.

Additional Resources

A Model of Federal, Provincial, Territorial Synchronization

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.

Public Engagement / Shared Responsibility

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.

A Federal, Provincial, Territorial Partnership

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.

Government of Canada's role

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.

What information can you find here?

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

  • legal requirements - under the Hazardous Products Act / Controlled Products Regulations
  • reference manual - provides a section-by-section discussion of the federal legislation which sets out the Canadian supplier and Canadian importer labelling and MSDS requirements and includes a comprehensive index
  • substance -specific - provides information / direction on a number of substance-specific - issues relating primarily to WHMIS supplier requirements

Employer

  • employer requirements - overview
  • compliance policy - as WHMIS is an information continuum, a single national WHMIS compliance policy has been established for both the supplier and employer requirements
  • publications - a number of mini-poster are provided

Worker

  • worker education and training
  • certification

Student

  • under development

Road map to WHMIS "topics" on the national site

Do You Know These Vital Signs? - The Hazard Symbols of WHMIS

Application - Regulatory Requirements

  • About WHMIS
  • Supplier and Importer Requirements - Overview / Program Objectives
  • Classification
  • Labels (Supplier and Importer)
  • Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)
  • Employer Requirements
  • Confidential Business Information ("Trade Secrets") Provisions

Compliance

  • National WHMIS Compliance Policy
  • Reference Manual (for WHMIS supplier requirements)
  • Hazard-Specific Issues
  • Substance-Specific Issues

Frequently Asked Questions / Related Issues

  • Advisories
  • Exclusions Review
  • Exportation and Importation
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  • Guidance Documents Relating to WHMIS Supplier Requirements
  • Hazard Alerts
  • International Harmonization
  • Other Regulatory Programs
  • Referenced Tests and Lists
  • Regulatory Framework
  • Transportation Cycle in relation to WHMIS

Program Administration

  • Administrative Framework / Consultative Framework
  • Federal, Provincial and Territorial Regulatory Authorities