What Does WHMIS Stand for?
WHMIS stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.
It is a comprehensive system developed in Canada to ensure that all employers and employees know the potential hazards of using hazardous materials in the workplace.
There are two categories of WHMIS: WHMIS 2015 and WHMIS 1988.
WHMIS 2015 is an updated version of the hazard communication system WHMIS 1988. With the update, WHMIS aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Substances (GHS). This ensures that hazardous warnings are in line with international standards.
On the other hand, WHMIS 1988 did not adhere to the GHS and had a more constrained scope, so it was ineffective.
To better understand WHMIS 2015, we will focus on the purpose, differences between the two versions, and how to implement it in the workplace.
Importance of Understanding WHMIS 2015
By labelling and Safety Data Sheets, WHMIS 2015 standardized hazard information is beneficial in the following ways:
- It incorporates new hazard classes, categories, labelling criteria, and revisions to safety data sheets that guarantee hazard communication uniformity and clarity.
- It adds new standardized training standards for workers who operate with hazardous products.
- The data can assist workers in identifying and comprehending the potential hazards linked with hazardous compounds in the workplace. It can also aid in the prevention of accidents and injuries, as well as the protection of workers’ health.
- It helps Canadian businesses that export products or operate globally by ensuring that hazard communication is consistent with other countries.
Purpose of WHMIS 2015
WHMIS 2015 aims to provide a safe working environment for Canadian workers who operate hazardous products.
The goal is to reduce the likelihood of hazardous material-related incidents and injuries.
WHMIS accomplishes this by providing standardized and detailed safety information through labelling, SDSs, and training requirements that align with the GHS.
Employers must also train workers on the dangers of hazardous products and how to work safely with these items under the system.
The training enables employees to understand the risks connected with hazardous materials. As a result, WHMIS guarantees that staff are aware of the hazards and know how to deal with them safely.
Changes in WHMIS 2015
WHMIS 2015 introduced several significant changes to the previous WHMIS 1988 system.
These changes introduced a new label format that includes standardized symbols and signals. The update makes it easier for workers to quickly identify the hazards associated with a product.
Also, there was an update to the main components, as shown in the table below:
||Identify and classify hazards associated with products and materials in the workplace.
||Classify hazardous products according to the new hazard classes and categories under WHMIS 2015.
||Label hazardous products with standardized symbols, signal words, and information specific to hazards.
|Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
||Provide detailed information on the hazards associated with a product and how to handle it safely.
|Worker Education & Training
||Educate and train workers on WHMIS 2015, including the new hazard classes, labels, and SDSs.
Note: These components work together to ensure that workers understand the hazards associated with products in the workplace and know how to handle them safely.
Role of Supplier, Manufacturer, Importer, and Distributor?
Under WHMIS 2015, everyone who provides sells (distributes), or imports hazardous products is a supplier. Distributors, importers, and manufacturers are all included in this.
With the new system, suppliers are now more accountable for giving downstream users appropriate hazard information, including labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).
What Products Does WHMIS Cover?
WHMIS 2015 covers all hazardous products used in the workplace. However, it excludes some goods, such as:
- Consumer products
- Wooden items
- Tobacco and its products
- Hazardous waste that is either bought and sold for recovery, recycling, or disposal
- Radioactive materials
Responsibilities of Workers, Employers, Manufacturers, and Suppliers
Workers have the right to obtain information and training on the risks associated with hazardous items in the workplace under WHMIS 2015.
Employers must provide this information and training and ensure that hazardous products are correctly labeled and SDSs are available.
On the other hand, manufacturers and importers are responsible for identifying the dangers of their products, developing labels and SDSs, and distributing them to downstream consumers.
Furthermore, distributors must ensure that hazardous products are appropriately labelled and that they distribute SDSs to downstream consumers.
Why Employers Should Follow WHMIS 2015 Guidelines
Employers have a moral and legal obligation to follow the WHMIS 2015 rules.
Canadian law requires all businesses to comply with WHMIS guidelines to avoid legal penalties and fines that vary depending on the infractions, jurisdiction, and severity.
Employers may also face the following penalties for non-compliance:
- If the negligence leads to a serious injury or death, you may face criminal prosecution and possible jail time.
- If there is non-compliance, a government inspector may issue a stop work order to suspend operations.
- Lawsuits, insurance claims, and other legal processes brought by employees who have suffered harm or injury due to their employer’s negligence.
- Your reputation may suffer, affecting the organization’s ability to attract and retain employees and customers.
Implementing WHMIS 2015 requirements is a legal necessity and a moral responsibility for businesses.
Employers can establish a positive workplace culture and foster a sense of trust and loyalty among their employees by prioritizing the safety and well-being of their employees.