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Webinar: Understanding WHMIS 2015

ByTracey Thibeau | Published: January 27, 2017
Presented by Danatec
Key Takeaways

Join us to learn more about WHMIS 2015 — its history, upcoming changes, and how it'll impact your operations.

Download the changes to WHMIS Legislation HERE

Jamie: Hello and a warm welcome to everybody. We would like to wish everybody a good morning, a good afternoon, or a good evening depending on where you are in the world. My name is Jamie and I am one of the co-founders of Safeopedia.

Before we get started, I just want to run through a few house-keeping items for everybody. Everyone on the webinar will be on mute for the duration of the presentation, but we really, really want to hear from you. So we’ll keep it interactive and ask that you type your questions into the go-to webinar console as we go, and we’ll do our best to answer as many of the questions as possible during the presentation. Also, a reminder that today’s webinar is being recorded and we will be sending out a link to the recording, and a few slides a couple days after the show.

Typically, one of the first questions that gets asked is, “How do I get in touch with the presenter after the webinar?” What we’ll do is put up a slide show or Tracy’s contact information. That way if we don’t get to your question, or the webinar ends and you have a question after the fact, you can follow up with Tracy directly.

Today, we are proud to present Understanding WHMIS 2015. This webinar is hosted by Safeopedia and is being presented by our good friends at Danatec. At Safeopedia, it is our goal to support those EHS professional and operational folks, and any safety-minded individual, through free educational content and resources. We would like to thank those dedicated professionals for the great and safe work they do on a daily basis.

It is now my pleasure to present to you today’s presenter, Tracey Thibeau. Tracey is an experienced international trainer and an accredited instructor with the IATA—that’s the International Air Transport Association. He’s taught in Europe, Africa, the United States, the Caribbean, and, of course, Canada. His extensive knowledge in WHMIS and the transportation of dangerous goods—air, ground, and water. Tracey is known to be a great chef and in his spare time and he loves to barbecue, umpire volleyball in the summer, and play with his grandchildren as often as he possibly can. So, with that and no further ado, I would like to introduce Tracey.

Tracey, before we get started with the questions, I kind of have a question of my own. On a daily basis, you know when we’re out working on the site, what are three questions that we should ask ourselves everyday on the job site?

Tracey: Well, its great Jamie that everyone should have this on their mind when they go to work, if they’re working around hazardous products: What are the hazards of the product? How can I use it safely? And what should I do if something goes wrong? Because its so important if there is an incident in the workplace that you react properly, and time is of the essence.

Jamie: That’s good. So, on a daily basis, before I start anything, I should be thinking, stopping, understanding what should I do if something goes wrong and just planting that seed before the work starts.

Tracey: Yes, and be prepared. Read any SDS or material datasheet of any product that you’re handling, and be aware of the surroundings in the workplace.

Jamie: Well, enough of my questions. We’ll get into the questions from the community here. “Who need’s WHMIS Training?”

Tracey: WHMIS Training is required in Canada by anyone who works with hazardous products, or in anyone who works in proximity to the hazardous products. So, everyone in that workplace must be trained.

Jamie: Ryan asks, “Does my training expire?”

Tracey: Training in a lot of courses in the workplace does have an expiry, like the transportation of dangerous goods. That expires in 36 months. Air training for the transportation of dangerous goods by air, expires in two years. But with WHMIS, you take it once and say you went to another job, you must be trained on the specific products that you’re working with in that place.

Jamie: That’s great. Here’s a question we have from Rebecca. Let’s see if I understand this correctly. “What is the difference between training and education?”

Tracey: Training and education—this is something that is fairly new in the sense that your training comes from your employer and your education comes from your instructor, or a course. So, if you took an online course you’re getting education on WHMIS and all the basic facts. Once you go into the workforce, it's up to your employer to make sure that you are trained on how to use the products, how to store the products, how to handle the products, and in the other pieces of equipment or machinery that you’re using in the workplace.

Jamie: Great. Thank you for that answer. Another question here from Mohammed. He asks, “Should I have received a WHMIS certificate from my employer?”

Tracey: Some companies do issue a training certificate especially if someone is traveling throughout different work sites. The company wants to see a training certificate. But as far as the WHMIS training is concerned, a WHMIS certificate is not mandatory to be issued.

Jamie: Do you know why that is? Why would some companies issue a certificate and some don’t? And now I’m walking around with two or three certificates.

Tracey: Great question in the sense that sometimes you can put your certificate on your phone, and when you go to a work site the contractor of that work site wants to make sure that you have a valid transportation of dangerous goods certificate, and you have had the WHMIS training.

Jamie: So, job site specific. Aaron asks, “I work in Alberta & BC. Are the regulations the same in all provinces?”

Tracey: WHMIS is a federal-type of training program. Canada has just recently come out with WHMIS 2015, which is Global Harmonization. The original WHMIS, which came about in 1985, was WHMIS 1988. So, what happens is the federal government comes out with the Occupational Health and Safety WHMIS, and each provincial government has the same type of program. Mostly, everything by the provinces are mirrored by the federal government, but it’s up to the individual provinces and counties to ensure that they look at the provincial regulations for WHMIS 2015.

Jamie: So, they could be different? Check with your employer. Is that fair to say?

Tracey: Yeah, or most safety personnel check with the provincial government that handles the WHMIS program that must be mandatory within the businesses.

Jamie: Okay. Tina asks, “What are some of the differences between WHMIS 1988 and 2015?”

Tracey: 1988 was when it first came about. So, what you had was a supplier’s label with a fast edge on it. That really stood out. It couldn’t be black. It had to be contrasting to the background. So, when you saw this label you know that. But because of Global Harmonization—and they’re making it the same if someone makes a supplier label in the United States or Great Britain or somewhere else in the European Union—they make the supplier label the exact same. So, they have done away with that thatched edge but they’ve also done something that I think is very good. There are some signal words. One of the signal words is "warning." In other words, this is a product that could cause some type of a reaction if you mishandle it. Then the other one is "danger." They are the signal words and if you have a product that is listed and the signal word is danger, it could do some major harm to you.

Jamie: Are there changes with the pictograms?

Tracey: Major change. The 1988 pictograms were in a circle with a back border around the circle and then the actual symbol inside. Now, with Global Harmonization, it’s going to be the same again for whoever has joined, or has implemented Global Harmonization in their country. So now, they’re diamond-shaped with a red border. Most of the symbols are the same, but there are some new ones and its up to you in your workplace if you are handling the new Global Harmonization symbols to make sure that you’re aware of what they stand for.

Jamie: So, just a little follow up. Is there a deadline? What’s the deadline? So, if I have packaging and I have got older pictograms, is there a deadline where I have to switch everything over with my company?

Tracey: Great question. Global Harmonization will take full effect December 1st, 2018. So, from December 1, 2018 on, it can only be Global Harmonization and WHMIS 2015 symbols, labels, and SDS sheets. So, that is very important. But up until December 1, 2018, if you have both 1988 and 2015, you must be trained in both.

Jamie: So, training is a big factor here. Not just in transportation or work sites, but the people that are training and are being trained.

Tracey: Yes. Your training and your education has to be on both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015, if both of the symbols, and the labels, and the SDS or MSDS sheets are in that workplace.

Jamie: What are the differences between the MSDS and SDS?

Tracey: The WHMIS 2015—they just dropped the letter M. Its now referred to as the SDS: Safety Data Sheet. There will now be 16 sections that are mandatory, in a specific order. So, when a manufacturer makes a safety data sheet from 1 to 16, those parts must be in a very specific order so that if you’re looking at a safety data sheet and you wanted to find out the UN number of product, if it is governed by the transportation of dangerous goods. That is in section 14 of every SDS. So, it’s good in that sense that its very uniformed and when you look at one, the same 16 sections are listed the exact same.

Jamie: Does that go through the border? So, is that the same for the United States, Canada, European Union?

Tracey: Yes, it is part of Global Harmonization. This is where sometimes some people get a little mixed up in the sense that WHMIS is going to be replaced by Global Harmonization. No. We still have WHMIS in Canada. Other countries have their program, but its not called WHMIS. So in Canada, it's still going to be WHMIS 2015. We’ve adopted Global Harmonization. So, we are the same in terms of symbols, safety data sheets, and labels. So if something is made in Great Britain or France and they’re part of the Global Harmonization, the labels and everything will be the exact same.

Jamie: So, call it whatever you want just don’t call me late for dinner. Its all the same. That’s got to be a big efficiency and safety aspect. If everything is the same across borders, the chance for messing something up goes way down.

Tracey: Definitely. Especially when you look at the MSDS that were applicable from 1988 until now. What has happened is they could do whatever they want as long as some of the information is there. But now its very specific. Where the information is, how do you handle a fire, how do you put the fire out, what type of extinguisher must you use. There is a specific place and it’s the same on every SDS that is issued.

Jamie: So instead of finding a needle in the haystack when you need it—its just the same.

Tracey: Yes.

Jamie: Genius move. Do mobile/contractor workers need their own SDS, or will my employer provide it?

Tracey: There are a lot, especially in some specific provinces, especially when you have a mobile mechanic or a service technician—as long as they can be in contact in the place where the truck starts in the morning, as long as they can get a hold there and contact someone about the SDS that’s on file, that’s okay. If not, a lot of companies what they’ll do is they’ll make for all the products that are on that service truck or that vehicle, anything that is WHMIS controlled, they’ll have a small mobile binder right there with them.

Jamie: So jobsite specific. Ask my supervisor or my EPC to go to the site shack and find out where it is before I start to work, is probably a good idea.

Tracey: Definitely. Because if you’re a worker that’s going to a building that’s being built—a high rise—you’re not going to take your SDS in your car when you go to work. So, the SDS will be in a shed or the center where the foremen are so its stored there. This is covered in your toolbox meetings everyday—what chemicals you’re going to be exposed to that day and that follows that format.

Jamie: Maybe you should get back to those three questions that you should ask yourself. The first question is “Where is the SDS for the job site,” along with these other questions.

Tracey: Yes. Especially if you’re working with a product that is WHMIS controlled. We go back to the same three questions: What are the hazards of the product? How can I use it safely? and, What should I do if something goes wrong? That is what you have to ask yourself everyday when you go on a work site with hazardous products.

Jamie: Your new mantra. Another question here, is my WHMIS training transferable to another employer?

Tracey: Yes, it is. Because once you take WHMIS the first time, if it is a generic course, that is all you have to take. But when you go to either a work site or a new employer, that employer now must give you training on the products that you will be handling in the new workplace you’re at. So, that training could be How do I store this product? How do I handle this product? What do I have to be careful of? If it’s flammable liquid are the vapors in a confined area? So, it could be very dangerous. You need ventilation or grounding of the container. That employer must train you on the specifics of the product that you’ll handle.

Jamie: Yeah and it sounds like this is a daily, hourly, minutely thing. I should be thinking back to those three questions. What are the hazards? How do I use it safely? What do I do if something goes wrong?

Tracey: And even if you did have WHMIS training and you’ve been with this company for five years, a new product comes into the workplace, so now you have to be trained on that product. It has to be documented that you’ve been trained on how to handle this product. Whether it’s a piece of machinery like a drill press or whatever, what are the procedures on handling that.

Jamie: Got it. Can an SDS be available via phone, tablet, or computer or do we need a hard copy?

Tracey: Great question in the sense that because we’re in the technical world now, everything is stored on the cloud and as long as you can get access to it anytime, now, you’ve done your due diligence as an employer. But if it’s on a computer and the power goes out, you’re not going to get that. So, you have to have some sort of a backup if you have to get access to that material safety data sheet or the SDS.

Jamie: Can I complete WHMIS documents electronically, or must they be completed via paper?

Tracey: Depends on what the document is. But if you’re talking on the SDS and it is on a cloud and you have access to it at all times—you’re covered. Again, some companies through due diligence, will still put a copy of the SDS—one binder in a specific place—where everyone has access to it, at anytime.

Jamie: How will the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) affect WHMIS?

Tracey: GHS is something that Canada has adopted. It is still the WHMIS program. But GHS is a new set of regulations that just makes it the same standards for every country that has the Global Harmonization. And that’s what it stands for, “Global Harmonization.” So, it’s the same in Canada and the same for the United States. It will be the same format for your supplier’s label and your SDS. It will be the same format.

Jamie: With GHS coming in, do all my employees need retraining?

Tracey: There has been a little bit of a misconception out there that its different and that it will now be called Global Harmonization. It will still be called WHMIS in Canada. Other countries have different names for their government organizations in that country. But in Canada, it still stays WHMIS. It still is the same format. Everything is the same except this change, and its going to be the same for what the other countries are doing. It follows the Global Harmonization regulations. So yes, you do have to be re-trained because your symbols now have changed. Your pictograms and your safety data sheets will now be in a 16-section format. And there have been 16 section formats for SDS or MSDS for years, but the information has been put in different sections, or different orders. Now, the order must be exactly the same. And the same with classification as far as the manufacturer; they follow the same format for classifying the hazardous products. And what we did have in Canada with the WHMIS 1988 was the Control Products Regulations and Act. Now, its called the Hazardous Products Regulations and Act.

Jamie: Takeaways

  1. GHS comes into full effect December 1, 2018. All training must be current. Everything must follow the new rules by this date.
  2. Ask yourself these three questions daily:
    1. What are the hazards of this product?
    2. How can I use it safely?
    3. What should I do if something goes wrong?
  3. WHMIS is job and product specific.
  4. GHS is a positive change.

Tracey: An excellent change in the sense that if anybody has ever looked at the Material Safety Data Sheets in the 1988 WHMIS, they are sometimes complicated, sometimes not as user friendly, but now the SDS format is the same for every country—that is part of the Global Harmonization. So, the manufacturer of the product must come up with a safety data sheet with the 16 sections in the exact same order and the classification—and the information will basically be the same on whatever the hazardous product is.

Jamie: I love it. Those were some of my takeaways but if you had to give us a couple of takeaways, what would they be?

Tracey: One of the most important takeaways that I would have from this is if you’re working with a product and it is a hazardous product, if I am the worker, I want to know what is it going to do to me if its mishandled? How can it harm me? And if it can harm me by absorption through the skin, or inhalation, or whatever—I want to know what safety procedures I must have—like your personal protective equipment. Do I have to wear a mask? Gloves? So, if I am handling that product and I see the signal word on the label that says "danger," now that could do some damage. So, I would suggest to everyone, whatever product they’re handling, if its hazardous, read the material safety datasheet or safety datasheet before you go any further.

Jamie: Great takeaway. And look out for your co-workers, as well. I am responsible for me, but if I look to the left and look to right—and perhaps if somebody is doing something that could harm them potentially—speak up.

Tracey: Yes, because remember if something has happened to you in a workplace, you want to have the security in mind that they’re going to know how to react and what are they going to do if something goes wrong. So like you say, everybody has everyone’s back, and knowledge is power.

Jamie: Planting those seeds tends to reduce or limit the panic when something does happen and that can’t be all bad.

Tracey: Not at all. Be prepared.

Jamie: Alright. We’d like to thank everyone for attending the webinar. Great questions, so thank you everybody that asked questions online. If you have any further questions, Tracey, how do people get a hold of you?

Tracey: Email: [email protected] or Cell: 780-298.9544. Contact me anytime if you have questions. We do have Train the Trainer Course for WHMIS 2015. There will be a course February 27 & 28, 2017, in Edmonton, AB. If you are interested in these courses, it is a 2-day course. Very comprehensive on going through not only the regulations, but the labels, the SDS—everything. And once you leave that course, you can provide a course for your company through this course that we offer.

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Written by Tracey Thibeau | Safety Consultant

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Tracey is an experienced International Trainer and an Accredited Instructor with IATA (International Air Transport Association) having taught in Europe, Africa, USA, the Caribbean and, of course, Canada.
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