This article was originally posted on

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a national system designed to provide workers with information about hazardous materials in the workplace.

WHMIS protects worker health and safety by providing the information required to correctly identify potential hazards and to provide safe storage,handling and disposal of materials.

The three components of an effective WHMIS program include:

  1. Training which ensures that an employer has educated their workers in the handling or manufacturing of controlled products which are substances regulated under WHMIS.The employee’s education must include understanding the content ,purpose and significance of the labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS).
  2. Labelling is required on containers of hazardous materials to alert workers to the danger’s of the product(s). If the controlled product remains in its original container, with a supplier label on it ,no additional labelling is required. When the controlled product is placed in another container for use in the workplace, then a workplace label is required.
  3. Material Safety Data Sheets(MSDSs) are technical bulletins that are a number of pages long and contain detailed hazard and safe handling information for controlled products. The MSDS provides more safety information than is possible to put on a label. The MSDS is prepared by the supplier of the product.

The Workplace Hazardous Information System has been in place in Canada since the late 1980s. Within the next year or so ,the system will have a major overhaul to be in step with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling (GHS). The goal of GHS is to have the same set of rules for classifying hazards, and the same format and content for labels and safety data sheets will be adopted and used around the world. An international team of hazard communication experts developed GHS. Overall the current roles and responsibilities for suppliers,employers and workers likely will not change in WHMIS once GHS is implemented. The 9-section WHMIS format for MSDSs will no longer be acceptable when the new Safety Data Sheets(SDSs) come into play. The new SDSs will require a 16-section format. Also the updating requirements of 3 years for them will remain in effect but they must be updated as new information becomes available.