What is WHMIS?

WHMIS, short-form (acronym) for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System and Globally Harmonized System is a Canada-wide system created by government, business and labour to protect the health and safety of everyone who works with or near hazardous workplace materials.

WHMIS is enforced by the Labour Branch of Human Resources Development Canada for federal workplaces and by the provincial or territorial agencies responsible for occupational health and safety for most other workplaces. Health Canada is the government body responsible for making the required changes to the overall federal WHMIS-related laws.

Canada has aligned WHMIS with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). GHS was developed by the United Nations to establish globally a common set of rules for classifying hazardous products, labels, and a standard format for Safety Data Sheets or SDSs (formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDSs). The goal of WHMIS is to create a safe and healthy workplace. WHMIS is successful only when suppliers, employers and workers assume their responsibilities.

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"HR Proactive has helped us stay ahead of the curve of ever changing requirements for Health and Safety training. HR Proactive’s extensive suite of Health & Safety training programs such as Worker Health and Safety, Supervisor Awareness, WHMIS, and Young Workers provides us with previously unavailable fully customizable materials to meet our municipality’s needs."
Daniel M. Holmes
Community Emergency Management Coordinator
Township of Champlain

What You Need to Know About the Latest WHMIS Updates

Are you up to date on the latest WHMIS legislation? In December 2022, Canada amended its Hazardous Product Regulations (HPR) to align with the 7th revised edition and certain provisions of the 8th edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The amendments introduce some key changes to WHMIS that workers, employers, and suppliers need to know.

Key changes

WHMIS 2015 will now be referred to as just “WHMIS”, and versions of the Hazardous Products Regulations will be distinguished with the terms “former” and “amended”.

For most workplaces, the most notable impacts of the transition from WHMIS 2015 to the amended WHMIS will be the adoption of a new physical hazard class, Chemicals Under Pressure, the adoption of a non-flammable aerosols hazard category, and new subcategories for flammable gases. A full breakdown of the changes and a comparison with WHMIS 2015 is available from Health Canada (see resources).

There are also several revisions to the information elements required on safety data sheets and labels, including modifications to the required elements concerning the physical and chemical properties in section 9 of the safety data sheet. New elements were introduced, including boiling point, flammability, kinematic viscosity, density and relative density, relative vapour density and particle characteristics. Some elements were removed, including odour threshold, evaporation rate, vapour density and viscosity. A safety data sheet can still provide these information elements as additional information, as long as it is not false or misleading.

Another amendment specifies that all hazardous ingredients which are present in a mixture at concentrations above the relevant cut-off levels must be disclosed, regardless of whether the hazardous ingredient contributes to the classification of the mixture as a hazardous product or not.

Employers in every industry that uses, stores or handles hazardous products will need to update their training programs to help workers learn and understand the new WHMIS changes. However, the industries most affected are likely to be mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction, petroleum and coal product manufacturing, chemical manufacturing, plastics and rubber products manufacturing, non-metallic mineral product manufacturing, primary metal manufacturing, and animal feed manufacturing.

A brief history of WHMIS

WHMIS, which stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, is Canada’s national hazard communication standard. It was created in 1988 to communicate important health and safety information about the hazardous products employers and workers may be exposed to while at work. It remained relatively unchanged until 2015, when WHMIS was updated to align with the 5th edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Since then, Canada’s amended legislation is refered to as WHMIS. 


Knowledge is power when it comes to hazardous products. These amendments are designed to provide more comprehensive and detailed health and safety information on product labels and safety data sheets, which will provide better protection for workers. They also help Canada meet its international commitment under the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council Joint Forward Plan. Aligning with certain requirements of the revised editions of the GHS will also have significant trade benefits for suppliers, due to the harmonized labelling and safety data sheet requirements for workplace hazardous products.

Transition period

Suppliers have until December 14, 2025 to bring their safety data sheets and labels into compliance with the amended regulations. During this three-year transition period, regulated parties can choose to comply with either the former HPR or the amended HPR, but not both. The hazard classification, safety data sheet and label of a hazardous product must be fully compliant with the version of the regulation chosen. This means that in order for a product to be compliant with the amended WHMIS, both the safety data sheet and label must meet the requirements of the amended WHMIS.

Consult your local health and safety authority

Employer obligations for workplace hazardous products are set out in federal, provincial, and territorial occupational health and safety legislation. For information on how your jurisdiction is handling the transition period, and how you can update your health and safety procedures accordingly, contact the appropriate federal, provincial, or territorial occupational health and safety regulatory agency. You can also sign up to be notified when Health Canada publishes new WHMIS updates at whmis-simdut@hc-sc.gc.ca.

Source: CCOHS

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