WHMIS 2015 and GHS: What you need to know

WHMIS 2015 Is Here

The new 2015 WHMIS is now available and it incorporates the GHS (Global Harmonized System). In Canada, you have until December 1, 2018 to fully transition to the new WHMIS standards.

Many of our customers have been confused as to how the GHS affects the new WHMIS. Does it replace it? Does WHMIS cease to exist? To clear it up, GHS is a standard that will be incorporated into the new WHMIS.

Until this year, the WHMIS we’ve all been using was known as WHMIS 1988. Let’s call that the old WHMIS. The new WHMIS, or WHMIS 2015, simply means it’s been updated to include GHS standards.

What Is WHMIS?

WHMIS is a Canadian system for classifying hazardous products and communicating information to people using the products via labels, training and material safety data sheets. It helps ensure that every worker who comes in contact with chemicals understands the hazards posed by chemicals they work with and other essential information.

What Is GHS?

GHS is a global system. Given how many chemical products cross international borders every day, having a global system is essential. Basically, it helps ensure that we all understand/interpret the chemicals and hazardous materials in the same way.

What’s Changed With WHMIS 2015?

For 2015, WHMIS has aligned with the worldwide hazard communication system known as GHS – the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Aligning with GHS provides many benefits, including:

  • Hazard classification criteria are more comprehensive which improves ability to indicate severity of hazards.
  • New hazard classes are included.
  • Physical hazard criteria are consistent with the Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG regulations).
  • Standardized language (hazard and precautionary statements).
  • Standardized SDS format and more comprehensive requirements.

WHMIS symbols will be changed and referred to as pictograms.

GHS-Pictogram

What Do Employers Need To Do?

We advise employers to plan with the December 1, 2018 deadline in mind. How you plan the transition is up to you, but ensure you are fully compliant with WHMIS 2015 by the deadline. During the transition period, you may receive hazardous products that follow either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 requirements. To ensure worker protection, employers must educate and train workers about WHMIS 2015 as new labels and SDSs appear in their workplaces. During the transition period, employers may continue to have WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs in the workplace – if so, they must also continue to educate workers about WHMIS 1988. Employers must review and comply with the WHMIS requirements of their occupational health and safety jurisdiction.

What Are Suppliers’ Duties Under WHMIS?

Suppliers are those organizations who, in the course of business, sell or import hazardous products. Suppliers must ensure the appropriate classification of hazardous products. This classification is determined based on comparison of all available hazard data for the ingredients or mixture to the WHMIS requirements as outlined in the Hazardous Products Regulations(WHMIS 2015) or the Controlled Products Regulations (WHMIS 1988).

When a product is considered to be a “hazardous product”, the supplier must label the product or container and they must provide a safety data sheet (SDS) to their customers. The purpose of the label is to clearly identify the hazardous product, the supplier, the hazards and precautionary measures. The SDS provides more information about that product.

What Are Employers’ Duties Under WHMIS?

When a hazardous product is used in the workplace, employers are required to:

  • Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of products.
  • Ensure that hazardous products are properly labeled.
  • Prepare workplace labels, as needed.
  • Prepare SDSs, as necessary (e.g., if an employer manufactures a hazardous product that is used on-site).
  • Provide access to up-to-date SDSs to workers.
  • Ensure appropriate control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of workers.

What Are Workers’ Duties Under WHMIS?

Workers will participate in WHMIS education and training programs, take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers, and participate in identifying and controlling hazards.

What Happens When An Inspector Visits The Workplace?

Inspectors have the authority to ensure that occupational health and safety legislation is being followed.

For WHMIS, for example, employers should be prepared to:

  • Demonstrate that a WHMIS program is in place.
  • Show where the SDSs are for the hazardous products used at that workplace.
  • Show that hazardous products in use have the appropriate labels.
  • Show education and training records for employees who work with or may be exposed to a hazardous product.

Inspectors may need to speak to workers to confirm that education and training has taken place. Workers should be able to answer these questions for every hazardous product they work with:

  • What are the hazards of the product?
  • How do I protect myself from those hazards?
  • What do I do in case of an emergency?
  • Where can I get further information?

Where Do I Start?

Here’s one way to plan your transition to WHMIS 2015. Remember, even if a product is exempt from a requirement to have WHMIS labels or SDS, it’s still your duty, as employer, to provide education and training to ensure safe use, proper procedures and storage.

1. Get To Know The New WHMIS + GHS.

Many chemical manufacturers in the U.S. and worldwide are already using GHS-compliant product labels. The GHS adds many benefits, including:

  • Hazard classification criteria are more comprehensive which improves ability to indicate severity of hazards.
  • New hazard classes are included.
  • Physical hazard criteria are consistent with the Transport of Dangerous Goods (TDG regulations).
  • Standardized language (hazard and precautionary statements).
  • Standardized SDS format and more comprehensive requirements.

As mentioned, it helps ensure that we all understand/interpret the chemicals and hazardous materials in the same way.

Keep the WHMIS 2015 transition timeline in mind so you can plan accordingly.

WHMIS2015-timeline

2. Inform Others In The Workplace

Any workers who may come into contact or handle chemicals will need to be briefed or trained on GHS. What they need to know depends on their responsibilities.

For example:

  • Management may need to be reminded of its legal obligations, and will likely want to see an implementation strategy, especially if you’ll be requesting additional resources.
  • The joint health and safety committee or safety representative will want a briefing so that they can respond to workers’ questions.
  • If you train in house, then your WHMIS trainers will need updates on training requirements and timelines.
  • Workers will need training on GHS SDSs, especially if GHS-compliant products are already entering your workplace.

The more your train proactively, the smoother the transition will be.

3. Ensure Your Workplace Is WHMIS Compliant

You’ll have an easier time converting to WHMIS 2015 if your current WHMIS program is already running smoothly. While you’re assessing the status quo, eliminate from your inventory any products no longer used or needed, and substitute non-hazardous products for hazardous. Ask managers about any upcoming production changes that may affect your workplace’s WHMIS or GHS program.

4. Review Training Processes And Materials To Determine:

  • What needs to be changed
  • What you need to make the changes
  • Whether there are better (i.e., faster, more economical) ways to provide training, such as combining classroom training with e-learning
  • Who will make the changes
  • When to make the changes.
  • Consider budget implications. How will the conversion affect your training budget? If you provide training in house, what will it cost to update the training? Will you have enough trainers, especially during the grace period when you may be providing both WHMIS and GHS training? What costs will be involved in shifting from MSDSs to SDSs? Do you have enough administrative support?
  • Draft an implementation schedule and budget. Involve key stakeholders and build 50% more time than you think you will need into the schedule.
  • Get official input and buy-in from the key decision-makers at the design stage so that you’re ready to act when the time comes.

How We Can Help

Our WHMIS 2015 is now being offered in our online store. By taking the course you’ll get a complete understanding of the GHS updates to WHMIS. The main changes revolve around new labels and some naming conventions.

Our course consists of 6 modules:

  • Module 1: Overview of WHMIS
  • Module 2: Hazard Classification
  • Module 3: Labels
  • Module 4: Safety Data Sheets
  • Module 5: Exposure to Hazardous Products
  • Module 6: Education and Training

By the end of the course, trainees will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose of WHMIS
  • Describe the changes under WHMIS 2015
  • Explain the building blocks of the classification system
  • Name the elements of a hazardous product label
  • Find information on a safety data sheet
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