Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!
Episode #109: WHMIS 2015
Introduction: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go!, a production of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, broadcasting from Hamilton, Ontario.
Host: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Health and Safety to Go.
As Canada aligns the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS), also known as WHMIS 2015, workers in Canada are left wondering “what does this mean for us?”
Today Anne-Marie Besliu, Technical Specialist at CCOHS, is going to shed some light on WHMIS 2015: what it is, how it affects workers and the workplace, and what are some important things we need to know about it.
Thank you for joining us today Anne-Marie.
Anne-Marie: Thank you for having me.
Host: Is WHMIS 2015 being implemented in workplaces right now?
Anne-Marie: That’s a really good question. Before we jump in I think it’s important that listeners understand that Health Canada is responsible for the federal WHMIS 2015 regulation that spells out the supplier requirements for classification, labels and data sheets for hazardous products in the workplace. This legislation came into force in February 2015.
So to answer your question: Yes, WHMIS 2015 is being implemented in workplaces across Canada right now, but suppliers who are manufacturers and importers may use either the old or new WHMIS system until May 31, 2017, and suppliers who are distributors have until May 31, 2018.
Some may wonder why suppliers are able to use either the old or the new WHMIS system until 2018. Health Canada is allowing suppliers to continue using the old WHMIS system (now called WHMIS 1988) or WHMIS 2015 until 2018 to allow suppliers, employers and workers time to adjust to the new system.
So employers may see both types of WHMIS labels and data sheets when purchasing hazardous products.
Host: If suppliers have until 2018 to transition, when should workplaces begin training users?
Anne-Marie: We’ve heard from a few provincial regulators that some workplaces think they have until 2018 to start their WHMIS 2015 training. This is incorrect.
Workers should be educated and trained on WHMIS 2015 before they use a hazardous product with a WHMIS 2015 label and SDS in the workplace. As long as there are products with WHMIS 1988 labels and SDSs in the workplace, workers will need to understand both the old and new WHMIS systems – pictograms, labels and data sheets.
These rules will be outlined more clearly when the federal, provincial and territorial WHMIS requirements are finalized.
Host: So when are the federal, provincial and territorial WHMIS requirements changing?
Anne-Marie: Every jurisdiction has its own time frame. The federal, provincial and territorial WHMIS laws focus on the workplace and employer requirements – especially WHMIS education and training.
What is important to understand is that even if your local laws have not been updated, there is still a requirement for employers to educate and train their employees on both WHMIS 1988 and 2015 systems.
Some provinces and territories (for example, Quebec, British Columbia, and the Yukon) have already passed their updated laws. The other jurisdictions are currently working on the changes to their legislation. Some jurisdictions such as Alberta are already enforcing WHMIS 2015 requirements while they are updating their act and regulations.
It is hoped that all of the federal, provincial and territorial WHMIS 2015 legislation will be updated by 2016. The national WHMIS.org web portal has up-to-date information available for all jurisdictions.
Host: Just one final question. I heard that the requirement to update MSDSs and SDSs at least every 3 years is gone. Is this true?
Anne-Marie: Suppliers that continue to use the WHMIS 1988 rules must still update the MSDSs for those products every 3 years. Suppliers that use the WHMIS 2015 rules must keep the Safety Data Sheets for those products ‘current’ – which means that the SDS must be updated when information about hazards or safe use changes.
Host: Thanks again for joining us here today Anne-Marie. Information about WHMIS 2015 including up-to-date jurisdictional updates, education and training requirements, and resources such as fact sheets and e-learning courses can be found on whmis.org, Canada’s national WHMIS portal, or by visiting ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.