Are you an employer operating a business here in Canada where you or your employees can, in one way or another, come in contact with hazardous materials? If yes, have you heard about the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)? Well, this is a legislation that handles the health and safety of all materials employees may come in contact with in different industries.
Health Canada has been on the forefront in ensuring effective laws are implemented in order to ensure these objectives are attained. There are quite a lot that you need to know about WHMIS whether you’re an employer or an employee working in an environment with hazardous materials. However, finding an effective WHMIS guide can be quite challenging. Want some good news? Here’s a complete online guide to everything you need to know about WHMIS. Please read on.
- Key Components of WHMIS
WHMIS contains three major components; classification, labels, and safety data sheets (SDSs). The WHMIS classification places hazardous products into two major groups: health hazards and physical hazards. These groups are further subdivided into classes and categories respectively. The classes will be depicted by pictograms – symbols enclosed in red diamond-shaped borders.
Labeling of hazardous products is vital to alert employees of the identity of the products, respective hazards, and the possible precautionary measures to take. WHMIS labels require that a specific format is followed in the wording of the hazards and they be standardized.
SDSs give detailed information about different products and their respective precautionary procedures to take. For instance, SDSs under WHMIS 2015 have been structured to follow a 16-section standardized format.
- WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 Versions
Probably, you must have heard, and perhaps been trained for WHMIS – which is the original version now referred to as WHMIS 1988. This was later updated to the new version; WHMIS 2015 which was launched on the 11th day of February 2015. The new version reflects the initiative of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) developed by the UN. The main objective of the GHS is to have a standardized set of rules to classify hazards and label chemical products that all countries across the globe should adopt and use.
Both the old and the new versions are meant to create a safer workplace by enlightening employees about hazards and precautionary measures and tools for safer workplace experience. However, there are key changes from the old version to the new version. These include:
- Standardized hazard and precautionary statement language.
- New hazard classes.
- New Supplier Label requirements.
- The criteria for Physical Hazard are aligned with the TDG Regulations.
- Ability to indicate the severity of hazards owing to the adoption of more comprehensive hazard criteria.
- SDSs now follows a standardized 16-section format with specific information requirements.
- WHMIS Education and Training
Every employee is required to be aware of how WHMIS and its functions, hazards posed by hazardous materials/products within their place of work, and safe work procedures that have to be strictly followed. It’s your duty as an employer to provide education and training to your employees on how to safely handle and work with hazardous products in the workplace. Training is essential to enlighten the employees on how to access and understand SDSs.
There are different ways that you can apply to learn and train your employees about WHMIS and its importance in their daily encounter with different hazardous products while carrying on with their duties within the workplace. Online WHMIS training is one of the most effective and convenient training that you can consider both for you and your employees.
- Your Responsibility as an Employer
WHMIS education and training is very vital. As an employer, you’re expected to provide all the hazard information from the supplier or any other information deemed important to know. It’s your responsibility to consult with your health and safety committee as you develop, implement, and review the WHMIS education and training program. You also should review the program at least once every year or whenever the work condition or hazard information changes.
Some provinces may include new requirements such as that requiring you to evaluate your employees’ knowledge about WHMIS using such means as practical demonstrations or written tests. Therefore, you should always check with your local jurisdiction about such requirements.
- Common Topics Covered During Education and Training Programs
Regardless of the method, you’ll use to provide your employees with the education and training, you should ensure that they cover all the most important topics as required by the legislation. The following are the main topics relevant to cover during the training program:
- The meaning of WHMIS.
- WHMIS classification
- WHMIS workplace labels.
- WHMIS symbols and their meanings.
- SDSs and their usage.
- Worker education
- Responsibilities of the employers, suppliers, and workers.
- Who Can Provide the Training?
Normally, the employer is the one with the obligation of providing education and training to the workers. The legislation outlines the minimum requirements for WHMIS education and training. However, the education and training can also be provided by an agency or a qualified person that will be chosen by the employer. Therefore, as an employer, you’ll be legally responsible to ensure your workers are protected regardless of who you’ll choose to provide the education and training.
- Who Can Benefit from the Training
If you’re an employer whose workplace deals with hazardous materials or an employee working or intending to work in an environment where you’ll be dealing with different kinds of hazardous products. You’ll also benefit and should consider the WHMIS training if you’ve been given the responsibility of health and safety in your place of work.
- Average Length of the Training
There’s no specific amount of time set to complete the WHMIS training, preferably online training. It can take you as fast as one hour or one week depending on your schedule. However, the training process is bound to take you an average of 2-3 hours to successfully complete it.
All jurisdictions in Canada are emphasizing on the need for every employer to implement WHMIS requirements in the workplace. WHMIS system mainly revolves around the classification of the hazards, container labelling, safety data sheets (SDSs), and employee education and training programs. All these are intended to enhance safe handling and usage of all hazardous products employees may come in contact with in their workplace. You need to be aware of the products you’re dealing with and if there are risks at stake, know how to handle each of them. An effective WHMIS education and training is essential for effective safety consideration of your employees in the workplace. You need to encourage your workers to follow all the safe workplace procedures that you’ve established.