Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System?

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a Canada-wide system designed to give employers and workers information about hazardous materials used in the workplace. The provinces and territories have incorporated the national standards into their occupational health and safety legislation and regulations, and are responsible for enforcement.

Under WHMIS, employers in workplaces with hazardous materials, are required to identify those materials, ensure that proper data sheets on the materials are readily available and containers are properly labelled, and to make sure that employees are properly trained in handling and use of the materials.

What is WHMIS?

WHMIS stands for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. It is a comprehensive plan for providing information on the safe use of hazardous materials used in Canadian workplaces. Information is provided by means of product labels, material safety data sheets (MSDS) and worker education programs. WHMIS was designed to ensure the safety of employers and employees while at the workplace. In particular, the system was designed to keep workers and employers informed of the dangers and hazards associated with the chemicals and substances that they may come into contact with while on the job.

What are the main parts of WHMIS?

The main components of WHMIS are hazard identification and product classification, labelling, material safety data sheets, and worker training and education.

Why was WHMIS created?

WHMIS was created in response to the Canadian workers' right to know about the safety and health hazards that may be associated with the materials or chemicals they use at work. Exposure to hazardous materials can cause or contribute to many serious health effects such as effects on the nervous system, kidney or lung damage, sterility, cancer, burns and rashes. Some hazardous materials are safety hazards and can cause fires or explosions. WHMIS was created to help stop the injuries, illnesses, deaths, medical costs, and fires caused by hazardous materials.

How was WHMIS developed?

WHMIS was developed by a tripartite steering committee with representatives from government, industry and labour to ensure that the best interests of everyone were considered.

Is WHMIS a law?

Yes. WHMIS became law through a series of complementary federal, provincial and territorial legislation that became effective October 31, 1988.

The majority of the "information" requirements (and exemptions) of WHMIS legislation were incorporated into the Hazardous Products Act and the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act. These apply to all of Canada. Regulations made under these acts include:

  • Controlled Products Regulations,
  • Ingredient Disclosure List,
  • Hazardous Materials Information Review Act Appeal Board Procedures Regulations,
  • Hazardous Materials Information Review Regulations.

The occupational health and safety components of WHMIS that apply to federal employees and others covered by the Canada Labour Code (CLC) are specified in the CLC and the Canadian Occupational Health and Safety Regulations (Part X).

What are the duties under WHMIS?

Suppliers, employers and workers all have specified responsibilities in the Hazardous Products Act.

Suppliers: Canadian suppliers are those who sell or import products. When this product is considered a "controlled product" according to the WHMIS legislation, a supplier must label the product or container, and they must provide a material safety data sheet (MSDS) to their customers. The purpose of the labels is to clearly identify the contents of the hazardous material, and the MSDS is to explain what those hazards are.

Employers: Employers are required to establish education and training programs for workers exposed to hazardous products in the workplace. Employers must also make sure that the products are labelled and that an MSDS is present for each product and that they are readily available to workers.

Workers: Workers are required to participate in the training programs and to use this information to help them work safely with hazardous materials. They may also inform employers when labels on containers have been accidentally removed or if the label is no longer readable.

What are controlled products?

Controlled products is the name given to products, materials, and substances that are regulated by WHMIS legislation. All controlled products fall into one or more of six WHMIS classes.

Who enforces WHMIS?

WHMIS is enforced by the Labour Branch of Human Resources Development Canada for federal workplaces and by the provincial or territorial agencies responsible for occupational health and safety for most other workplaces.

Who is responsible for WHMIS training and WHMIS education?

The onus is on the employer to ensure that his or her staff is properly trained. The responsibility to ensure workers are trained and the manner in which training is conducted rests with the employer.

Who requires WHMIS training?

Any worker who works with or in proximity to a controlled substance needs WHMIS training. Comprehensive WHMIS training must be taken by anyone who works with or in close proximity to chemicals and therefore have the potential for exposure. Comprehensive WHMIS training is also required for those who will enter an area where chemicals are used or stored. Basic WHMIS training is required for workers who will never work in close proximity to chemicals (and therefore have a very low potential to exposure) but work in an area where chemicals may be present or encountered (i.e. the same corridor as a chemical research lab, chemical storeroom, etc.)

How often must a worker receive WHMIS education and training?

Please contact the occupational health and safety regulatory authority having jurisdiction for the workplace.

Does possession of a WHMIS "certificate" by a worker fulfill the employer's obligation to ensure that the worker has received WHMIS education and training?

No. The employer has the legal obligation to ensure that his/her workers have received both generic WHMIS education as well as the necessary site- specific training. The employer may, in consultation with the health and safety committee, delegate the development and administration of the education and training programs to the employer's health and safety committee or fulfill his/her legal obligations by hiring a service provider. (Note: A WHMIS "certificate" may be issued by a company to its employees or, for example, by an academic institution or a safety association. However, the possession of such a certificate by a worker does not absolve Canadian employers from their legal responsibility to ensure that each employee receives appropriate WHMIS education and applicable site- specific training including the provision of training updates and refresher courses when warranted by a change in duties and/or where required by law by the occupational health and safety regulatory authority having jurisdiction.

Does the WHMIS education and training received in relation to a given workplace suffice for all workplaces in Canada?

Generic WHMIS education can apply to any workplace. However, exposure to controlled products will depend on the nature of the work. Thus, the employer must ensure that each of his/her employees receive site- specific training that is applicable to the work that the employee is required to perform.

Why should companies be concerned with compliance and having safety programs?

Adhering to government regulations is good business and it minimizes the risk of fines for non- compliance. Organizations spend billions on direct and indirect costs associated with workplace risk; these costs include workman's compensation claims, lost employee time and productivity, higher insurance fees, site clean-up, adverse publicity, and law suits. Safety programs are proven to reduce costs and increase productivity.

Why is the training computer based?

On-line training is thorough, consistent and flexible. It enables employers to implement training in a cost effective and productive manner. It not only trains and tests the knowledge of participants, it also documents and archives the results. Training can be provided anytime from any location.

How long does it take to complete the course?

It takes approximately 60 minutes to complete. Training does not have to be completed at one time.

Do I need to re-certify and if so, how often?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that all training must follow WHMIS guidelines and must be reviewed annually to ensure your employees know, retain, and follow safe practices.

Do government regulations require a WHMIS certificate?

As per Health Canada’s website “WHMIS laws do not require that workers be issued a ‘certificate’". However, WHMIS.NET issues a certificate that provides proof that a trainee has successfully completed the course.

How do I get help?

Please click on 'Contact' and complete the information form. We will follow-up with you within two business days.

What happens if I forget my username or password?

If you cannot remember your login credentials, please click on 'Contact' and complete the information form.

We will send the required information to the email address registered with us.

What should I do if I have trouble logging into my account?

Most often, these difficulties are caused by the settings on your computers. You should first clear your “cookies”. Follow these steps for Internet Explorer: Go to the ‘Tools’ button on your internet window and drop down to ‘Internet Options’. Then go to the middle of the Internet options box and click on ‘Delete Cookies’.

It will take a minute for the cookies to delete. Once the operation is complete, close the box and log back into the course. If this does not work please click on 'Contact' and complete the information form. We will follow-up as soon as possible.

I am using a dial-up connection and my course is running slow or not playing at times. What can I do?

Unfortunately, we cannot control the speed or reliability of dial-up connections. Dial-up performance will depend on many factors. For more information, please contact your internet service provider. For optimal performance we recommend using a high-speed internet service.

Is there a time restriction on completing the program?

The passwords are valid for one year from the date of purchase.

Does your site keep track of my score?

Yes. Our site keeps track of every exam you take, the answers that you select, and the scores for each exam.

How does the GHS affect WHMIS?

The GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) is an international standard designed to replace the various different classification and labeling standards used in different countries. While WHMIS regulations will need to be amended to incorporate the new harmonized criteria for hazard classification and requirements for hazard communication (i.e., for MSDSs and labels), Most of Europe and the US are already implementing the GHS. More information about the schedule for implementing the GHS in Canada can be found at: http://hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt /occup-travail/whmis-simdut/ghs-sgh/index-eng.php