Meet new WHMIS / GHS compliance deadlines with these 6 steps

Mar 06, 2015

WHMIS_GHSManufacturers, importers and distributors of hazardous products now have a series of deadlines for complying with changes to Canada's Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) that have been in the works for years. These deadlines, published in a February issue of the Canada Gazette Part II, also apply to federally regulated employers. Employers under provincial and territorial jurisdiction can likely expect the same or slightly staggered deadlines.

The just-released dates will allow manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers to schedule their compliance efforts. "If I were any of these parties," says WSPS consultant Craig Fairclough, "I would be feeling more comfortable than I was before the announcement. We now have exact dates that should give us enough time to implement the changes."

The changes introduce new classification rules, label requirements, and formats for material safety data sheets. However, they build on the existing WHMIS framework. The implication: "We'll all have to make changes, but we won't be starting from scratch," says Fairclough.

Why WHMIS is changing

The changes will align Canada's existing WHMIS system, now known as WHMIS 1988, with the Global Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling for Chemicals (GHS), an international system used by Canada's trading partners. According to Health Canada, this will make workplaces safer, more competitive and more productive. Net benefits for Canadian governments and industry are estimated at $391.6 million over 20 years.

What happens next

Canada’s transition to the GHS-aligned version, to be known as WHMIS 2015, will take place in four phases. All parties must be in full compliance by December 1, 2018. The following table identifies next steps for everyone.

Phase Who's Affected How to Comply
1: from now until May 31, 2017 Manufacturers, importers and distributors of hazardous products
  • Follow either the WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 requirements
  • For each product, use either a WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 label and (material) safety data sheet
2: June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018 Manufacturers and importers selling hazardous products
  • Sell or import only products with labels and safety data sheets compliant with WHMIS 2015
3: June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018 Distributors of hazardous products plus manufacturers and importers importing hazardous products for their own use
  • Import hazardous products with labels and (material) safety data sheets compliant with either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015
4: June 1, 2018 to November 30, 2018 Manufacturers, importers and distributors of hazardous products
  • Sell or import only products compliant with WHMIS 2015
5: December 1, 2018+ Manufacturers, importers, distributors, and federally regulated employers* using hazardous products
  • Comply with WHMIS 2015

* Ontario employers, watch for more information from the Ministry of Labour

6 next steps

Craig Fairclough offers these suggestions to help workplaces meet the new requirements:

  1. Inform yourself. Attend an information session at Partners in Prevention 2015 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show, request an onsite awareness session, or watch a free webinar.
  2. Inform others. If your workplace handles or stores chemical products, then at some point everyone will need to be briefed or trained on WHMIS 2015.
  3. Ensure your workplace is already WHMIS 1988 compliant. You'll have an easier time converting smooth-running processes to WHMIS 2015 than trying to improve and convert at the same time.
  4. Review training processes and materials to determine what needs to be changed, the best way to provide training (e.g., combining classroom training with e-learning?), who will make the changes, and when.
  5. Draft an implementation schedule and budget. Involve key stakeholders and build 50% more time than you think you will need into the schedule.
  6. Get input and buy-in from key decision-makers at the design stage.

How we can help

  • WSPS has consultants, trainers and resources to help you at every step along the way. Visit our WHMIS resources page for more information.
  • For at-a-glance information on WHMIS 2015, such as chemical classifications and safety data sheets, check out the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety's OSH Answers WHMIS info.
  • Attend Partners in Prevention 2015 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show, April 28-29 in Mississauga, where you can speak with WHMIS experts and attend WHMIS 2015: How Workplaces Can Prepare for Successful Transition.