Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
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>September 2015

Infographic: Indoor Air Quality

Manage the quality of air workers breathe

View IAQ Infographic

Many of us spend our working hours indoors. The quality of the air we breathe can significantly affect our comfort, productivity, and health.

Poor indoor air quality can create an unpleasant or uncomfortable work environment, which in turn can affect morale, productivity, and employee well-being. In more serious situations, employees' health can be at stake. It is important to address all IAQ concerns seriously and without delay. Even situations which at first appear to be trivial can lead to more severe problems if left unchecked.

Our latest infographic describes the symptoms of IAQ, common causes, and what workplaces can do when it comes to both investigating IAQ complaints and proactively improving the air we breathe at work.

View the Indoor Air Quality infographic

View more health and safety infographics

Top WHMIS 2015 Training Questions from Employers

What you need to know about the new WHMIS

WHMIS/GHS/(M)SDS webpage

Canada's Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) changed on February 11, 2015 to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This new WHMIS is called "WHMIS 2015" and the original version is now referred to as "WHMIS 1988".

The main elements of WHMIS - product hazard classification, labels, data sheets and worker education and training - are all still required with WHMIS 2015. What has changed are the names (and criteria) for the hazard classes, how labels look and what is required on the data sheet.

WHMIS 2015 questions have been pouring into our free Safety InfoLine service. Here are the top questions received from employers:

When does WHMIS 2015 start for workplaces?

Part of the confusion around the start time for WHMIS 2015 has to do with the way occupational health and safety (OHS) laws work in Canada.

Health Canada is responsible for the WHMIS 2015 laws that spell out the supplier requirements for classification, labels and data sheets for hazardous products in the workplace. These laws came into force in February 2015 and include a multi-year transition period.

WHMIS laws pertaining to workplaces - including employer responsibilities and WHMIS education and training for workers - fall under federal/provincial/territorial (F/P/T) OHS legislation. This WHMIS legislation also needs to be updated for WHMIS 2015. Some jurisdictions have already passed their laws while most others are in transition. The goal is to have all of the OHS legislation updated by 2016. The national WHMIS web portal has jurisdictional information available.

Even if the WHMIS 2015 legislation in your jurisdiction has not been enacted, employers CAN receive WHMIS 2015 products into the workplace. So, in effect, WHMIS 2015 has already started in Canadian workplaces.

Which WHMIS system should I train on now?

There is a misunderstanding that we have been hearing about from the F/P/T regulators - some workplaces think they have until 2018 to start training. Workers actually need to be educated and trained now before they use a hazardous product with a WHMIS 2015 label and SDS. Workers need to understand what the new pictograms mean and where to find information they need in the new 16-section SDS.

As long as there are products with WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs in your workplace, workers will also need to understand WHMIS 1988. This means that any new workers will need training on both systems.

Once you no longer have products with WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs in the workplace, you will no longer need to train on WHMIS 1988.

What are the requirements for WHMIS education and training?

WHMIS education refers to general information such as:

  • how WHMIS works
  • the hazard classes
  • what information is found on both the supplier label and workplace label, and what that information means
  • what information is found on the SDS and what that information means

WHMIS training refers to the site- and job-specific information to workers that will cover:

  • your workplace's procedures for storage, handling, safe use, disposal, emergencies, and spills
  • what to do in unusual situations

After completing WHMIS education and training, your workers should understand:

  • the hazards of the product(s) they work with
  • how to protect themselves from those hazards
  • what to do in case of an emergency
  • where to find more information about hazardous products

There is no prescribed expiry of WHMIS training unless there are changes to your WHMIS program. There are requirements for employers to review their WHMIS program annually or when hazards change.

It is the employer's responsibility to provide appropriate education and training for their workers. The legislation does not prescribe a specific course to be taken for WHMIS. There have been instances of "aggressive WHMIS marketing". Warnings about this issue are posted on F/P/T websites and the national WHMIS portal.

Workplaces can use CCOHS resources to assist with WHMIS education. Keep in mind that employers are still required to do workplace-specific training that reviews the hazardous products in the workplace and safe work procedures. Employers can do this training in-house or hire a consultant - it is always your choice.

What else do I need to do for WHMIS 2015?

During the transition from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015, you may receive hazardous products that comply with the requirements of WHMIS 1988 OR WHMIS 2015. Suppliers have the option of converting their products to WHMIS 2015 at the product level (i.e. one product at a time). Suppliers have until May 31, 2017 to convert to WHMIS 2015. Distributors have an additional year - until May 31, 2018.

Some tips for a smooth transition:

  • Update your inventory of hazardous products and safely dispose of those you no longer need.
  • Keep track of which products comply with WHMIS 1988 and which products have converted to WHMIS 2015.
  • Review the new WHMIS 2015 SDSs to see if any different hazard and/or control information is listed. If there are changes, you will need to:
    • educate and train your employees on the new hazards, and
    • evaluate your existing hazard control and emergency response procedures to determine if any changes are required.

Remember: It is important that you educate and train your workers on WHMIS 2015 before they use hazardous products that have a WHMIS 2015 compliant label and SDS.

For more information on WHMIS 2015, visit our Fact Sheet.

CANWright product page

Mental or Physical, Illness is Illness

Resources to help you build a mentally healthy workplace

Healthy Minds at Work portal

Imagine working in a highly productive environment in which you feel safe, respected and valued; the work is challenging; the demands of the job are reasonable; you have work-life balance; and your employer supports your involvement in your work and interpersonal growth and development. This is what is known as a mentally healthy workplace.

Poor mental health not only hurts the individual, it also impacts an organization's bottom line and ability to thrive. Having the support of their workplace can make a world of difference for workers with mental health issues.

Increase your understanding and recognition of mental health issues at work, develop effective approaches to promoting mental health at work, and find resources and tools to help get you there. Visit the Healthy Minds at Work website to get started.

More resources on workplace mental health from CCOHS:

Tap into Health and Safety Learning

Partnerships could mean access to e-courses for you

Canadian enviroOSH Legislation plus Standards webpage

Did you know that if you work in Manitoba, Nova Scotia, or the federal government, you can access complimentary CCOHS e-courses?

Manitoba: Residents of Manitoba can take the WHMIS 1988 for Workers and WHMIS 2015 for Workers e-courses for free, courtesy of a partnership with SAFE Work Manitoba.

Learn more and register now

Nova Scotia: For a limited time, residents of Nova Scotia can take up to 6 free e-courses from a selection of more than 60 CCOHS e-courses, including Confined Space Management, Manual Materials Handling, Emergency Response Planning and Stress in the Workplace, through a partnership with the Government of Nova Scotia.

Learn more and register now

Federal Government: CCOHS partnered with the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) to offer its full catalogue of 100 health and safety e-courses to workers at Schedule I, IV, and V federal government organizations until September 2016. Popular titles include: Canada Labour Code, Part II: An Overview, Federal Hazard Prevention Program, and Health and Safety Committees in the Canadian Federal Jurisdiction.

Learn more and register now


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