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WHMIS 2015 - Education and Training

Important Information

Canada has aligned the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).

This document discusses the WHMIS 2015 supplier requirements as regulated by the federal legislation – the Hazardous Products Act and the Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR).

Health Canada is the government body responsible for the overall WHMIS supplier-related laws. Note that WHMIS is also regulated in the workplace by the provinces, territories and federal (for federally regulated workplaces) governments under their occupational health and safety legislation. While these jurisdictions based their WHMIS regulations on the common model, small variations between jurisdictions may exist in how they adopted WHMIS 2015.

Suppliers and employers must use and follow the WHMIS 2015 requirements for labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada.

Please refer to the following OSH Answers documents for information about WHMIS 2015:

Is there a difference between education and training for WHMIS 2015?

Yes. Education and training can be thought of as two separate parts.

  • Education refers to general or portable information such as how WHMIS works and the hazards of the products. For example, you will learn about the hazard classes (e.g., why a product is called a corrosive, and what information you can find on labels and SDSs).
  • Training refers to the site- and job-specific information to employees that will cover your workplace's procedures for storage, handling, use, disposal, emergencies, spills, and what to do in unusual situations.

Who should receive this education and training?

In Canada, if a workplace uses hazardous products, there must be a WHMIS program in place. Workers must be educated and trained so they understand the hazards, and know how to work safely with hazardous products.

All workers who work with a hazardous product, or who may be exposed to a hazardous product as part of their work activities must learn about the hazard information for these products. The hazard information should include the information received from the supplier, as well as any other information that the employer is aware of about the use, storage and handling of each product.

As an example, this education and training will include all workers who:

  • May be exposed to a hazardous product due to their work activities (including normal use, maintenance activities, or emergencies).
  • Use, store, handle or dispose of a hazardous product.
  • Supervise or manage workers who may be exposed, or use, store, handle or dispose of a hazardous product.
  • Are involved in emergency response.

What topics should be covered?

Examples of topics that should be covered during education and training include:

  • The information on both the supplier label and workplace label, and what that information means.
  • The information on the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and what that information means.
  • The procedures required for safe use, handling and disposal of a hazardous product.
  • Any other procedures required when the product is in a pipe, piping system, vessel, tank car, etc.
  • The procedure to follow if the hazardous product may be present in the air and a worker may be exposed.
  • All procedures that must be followed in an emergency that involves the hazardous product.

Is there a need to provide education and training in both old WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015?

In some situations, yes. Keep in mind that education and training on the "old" WHMIS 1988 system will be necessary for as long as workplace products have "old" WHMIS style labels and MSDSs – for example, until the product is re-labelled or existing stock is used up. This situation will exist until the transition to WHMIS 2015 at your workplace is complete.

Note that education and training requirements fall under the WHMIS-related occupational health and safety regulations for the provinces, territories and federally regulated workplaces. Consult your local jurisdiction for information on specific requirements and transition timelines.

What are the employer duties?

All Canadian jurisdictions currently require that employers develop, implement, and maintain a worker WHMIS education and training program. This education and training is required for hazardous products workers work with, or for products that workers may be exposed to at work.

The employer has the general responsibility to provide all of the hazard information possible either from the supplier, or based on information the employer is, or ought, to be aware of.

Employers are also expected to consult with the health and safety committee (or representative) when developing, implementing or reviewing the education and training programs.

In addition, the employer should review their overall WHMIS education and training program, at least annually or more often if there is a change in work conditions, hazard information or similar. This review should be done in consultation with the health and safety committee or representative. Confirm these details with your local jurisdiction.

As an employer, how often do I need to provide refresher training?

Refresher education and training is generally required:

  • As needed to protect the worker's health and safety.
  • If conditions of the workplace have changed.
  • If new products are introduced.
  • If the products have changed and now have different hazards.
  • When new hazard information becomes available.
  • If there is new information about safe use, handing, storage or disposal.

It is possible that some provinces or territories may add a requirement which includes that employers must periodically evaluate workers knowledge using written tests, practical demonstrations or other means. Again, confirm these details with your local jurisdiction.

What are the worker duties?

Workers must participate in the education and training sessions, and follow the safe work procedures established by their employer.

I am a worker. If I change employers, do I have to re-take WHMIS training?

It is up to the employer to decide. The general or "generic" part of your WHMIS education (such as how WHMIS works, the hazards classes, etc.) will apply in all workplaces. However, each workplace is different, and your potential exposure to hazardous products will vary. Employers must make sure that workers receive training that is specific to that workplace, and to the work you will be performing. Employers may opt to refresh your generic WHMIS education at the same time.

Briefly, what does successful education and training look like?

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?

Who should provide the education and training?

The legislation places the obligation for education and training with the employer, and it outlines the minimum requirements for education and training. This education and training may be provided by the employer, or by a qualified or competent person or agency that the employer has chosen. Regardless of who delivers the education and training, employers remain legally responsible to ensure the protection of workers.

Training providers would be considered qualified or competent based on having a suitable level of knowledge, skills, and abilities in the subjects they deliver.  A provider should also be competent in delivery techniques and methods, especially those methods appropriate for adult education when delivering training in a workplace.

The employer should confirm that the training provider's qualifications and abilities to meet the training course objectives, and match the needs of the trainees.

I am an employer and I received a call from a training agency stating that, for a fee, they will provide WHMIS training as required by law and have also stated that we are not currently in compliance with WHMIS. Are we obligated to follow their program?

Some jurisdictions have reported that employers have been contacted by external companies that use high-pressure sales tactics. Notices from these jurisdictions remind employers that they have a choice when deciding on an external training provider. The goal is to provide education and training that suits both the general education and work-site specific training information you need for hazardous products and the procedures used at your workplace.

Document last updated on February 28, 2022

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Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.