WHMIS is an acronym for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System created by Canada in 1988, also known in French as SIMDUT “Système D’Information sur les Matières Dangereuses Utilisées au Travail.” It has changed quite a bit since 1988 as evident at its most recent update in 2015 when the classification system for Hazmat materials was aligned with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). This ultimately provides more clarity for standardization purposes, as well as:
- Comprehensive classification criteria for hazards
- Physical hazard criteria is now consistent with the regulations set by the Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG)
- Standardized safety data sheets (SDS) format
WHMIS gives employees, employers, regulators, and suppliers in any workplace that involves working in close proximity to hazardous materials the necessary knowledge and resources to identify and act upon certain dangerous circumstances.
There are three components of WHMIS that everyone involved must comply with.
- Worker education and training is required by law. Employees must be enrolled into a program that provides instruction relating to hazmat material in the workplace.
- Appropriate labeling that identifies certain chemicals and materials that are dangerous according to the GHS/WHMIS hazmat classifications.
- SDSs, these are Safety Data Sheets that provide all the necessary health and safety information on a product. They describe how to use the product safely, how to recognize symptoms of exposure, and what to do if an emergency happens.
The same pictograms shown on the WHMIS warning labels are also on GHS labels as one of the more recent modifications of WHMIS. They are as follows:
The bold typeface is what the pictogram is referring to as while the un-bolded is the description relating to its own class of hazmat material.
The most recent labels look like this one:
As this is a Canadian labeling system there must be a French translation on the right side so there are clear instructions and information for everyone.