WHMIS 2015 in the Workplace
by Brad Bradish, Manager, Injury Risk Management for SRG
WHMIS 2015 (Global Harmonized System) came into effect in February of 2015. The initial launch didn’t require immediate training of the entire program, but employers did need to train employees when the new labels arrived at their facilities. This gap in training led to concern for health and safety professionals as it is very difficult to track incoming product with new WHMIS 2015 labels.
Although WHMIS 2015 does differ from WHMIS 1988, the program overall is fundamentally the same in terms of expectations of employers:
- Under WHMIS 2015, the roles and responsibilities are the same for employers, supervisors and employees as they were in the previous system. Employers and supervisors still have to inform and train employees on the hazardous material they work with and protective gear needed to work with it.
- Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) have changed to Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The new SDS only expire if there is a change in the product, which relieves the worry of updating the MSDS every three years.
- WHMIS 2015 labels are easier to read from a distance with enlarged caution phrases and symbols surrounded by red instead of black.
- Some pictograms used for WHMIS symbols have been updated and other more confusing images removed altogether under WHMIS 2015. The symbols were designed for people to be able to look at and quickly identify the type of hazard a material would produce. The updated pictograms help the worker quickly identify the hazard, especially in an emergency.
Full WHMIS 2015 compliance isn’t required until December 2018. This is when all products must be updated to new WHMIS labels, Safety Data Sheets, and updated training to the specific chemicals that the worker could be exposed to. However, new labels are already showing up in workplaces now, as new products are distributed.
During some recent workplace inspections, I have started to see the new labels on products. It prompted me to ask if new WHMIS 2015 training had been provided to our Team Members on the specific WHMIS products. To my surprise, many had not received the training.
It can be difficult to comply with WHMIS 2015 when not all vendors have made the switch to the new system. One way to monitor incoming products is to add this to the Joint Health and Safety Committee’s monthly inspection report. A quick training session on WHMIS 2015 labels with your shipping and receiving department is a great way to find new incoming product. This group can report out to the JHSC so that all workers can be trained on the ‘new’ product, hazards and safety measures.
For more information, www.WHMIS.org has updated legislation and requirements for all Canadian Provinces and Territories.