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WHMIS – A Guide for Employers

What is WHMIS?
WHMIS stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. WHMIS was designed to ensure the safety of everyone (specifically employees and employers) in the workplace. WHMIS intends to keep workers and employers informed of the hazards associated with chemicals and substances that they may come into contact with while on the job.

Who needs WHMIS training?
WHMIS training is legally required for all employees who are exposed or likely to be exposed to a hazardous material or a controlled product at the workplace.

Who is responsible for WHMIS training and WHMIS education?
The onus is on the employer to ensure that their employees are properly trained (including the responsibility to train and the manner with which the training is conducted).

Does WHMIS training apply to your workplace?
If a product has the usual WHMIS symbols or labels than WHMIS applies and employers have a legal responsibility to deliver WHMIS training.  However, employers can be confused when reviewing their cleaning products when they find hazard symbols that are not typical WHMIS symbols.   Because these Consumer Products are generally used for personal, family and household purposes, they are partially exempt from WHMIS (this means the supplier does not need to label the product according to the regular WHMIS symbols/labels, and a MSDS is not required as a condition of sale.)  However; when Consumer Products are brought into a workplace environment, WHMIS training IS a legal requirement and needs to be delivered to all employees who use, or might come into contact with, these products.

How often do I need WHMIS training?
Every company must review their WHMIS program at least annually or more frequently if required by a change in work conditions or available hazard information. By reviewing your program you ensure that your employees are still adequately trained and knowledgeable.

To determine if your employees are adequately trained, they should be able to properly answer the following four questions:

1) Where can I get hazard information?
2) What are the hazards of the controlled product?
3) How am I protected from those hazards?
4) What do I do in case of an emergency?

If you find that your employees are not sufficiently trained, they should be retrained.
It’s recommended that the training be done annually.

What needs to be included in a WHMIS training program?
WHMIS training must include both general and site-specific training. General training covers such things as the regulations, labels, MSDSs, controlled products, symbols etc. Most pre-bought WHMIS Courses are general courses and therefore do not fulfill the required training!

Site-specific training covers things like how to work safely with the controlled products used in YOUR workplace, where you keep the personal protective equipment and MSDSs and training for specific work procedures.

Are you an employer and need help developing general or site specific WHMIS training for your workplace?  Contact me today for a free no-obligation quote!  I would be happy to review your current training program for free and provide you with a free quote on my services to redesign your WHMIS program to meet current OHSA and MOL requirements.

For more information from the Ministry of Labour about WHMIS, please visit:

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