By Carla Oliver
WHMIS is a national program of hazardous materials labelling, information, instruction, training and general health and safety awareness. In February 2015, changes were made to WHMIS to implement elements of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This modified version of WHMIS is now known as WHMIS 2015.
Over the past few years, timeframes for implementation by various workplace parties have been changed and extended except for one; employers must have completed the transition process from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015 by Dec. 1, 2018. This means there should be no hazardous products in the workplace with labels and material safety data sheets under the WHMIS 1988 standards.
There are, of course, exceptions to assist employers with unused products under the old WHMIS standards. For example, federally regulated employers have to meet the Dec. 1, 2018 transition period. However, if by Dec. 1 they still had products in their workplaces with labels and MSDS' under the old WHMIS standards, they will have until May 31, 2019, to use and dispose of those products. On and after June 1, 2019, all products within federally regulated workplaces must comply with the new WHMIS requirements.
Provincial and territorial occupational health and safety agencies are responsible to establish requirements for workplace parties under their respective legislation for the transition period. For example, section 13(1) of Ontario's WHMIS Regulation, O. Reg. 860, states:
13. (1) An employer shall replace a WHMIS 1988 workplace label on a hazardous product, or container of a hazardous product, by affixing to the product or container a workplace label if,
(a) the WHMIS 1988 workplace label was affixed to the product or container on or before Nov. 3, 2018;
(b) the WHMIS 1988 workplace label would have complied with the provisions of this regulation relating to workplace labels for that hazardous product as they read immediately before July 1, 2016; and
(c) this regulation requires that a workplace label be affixed to the product or container.
Employers should review the specific legal obligations in their province or territory in order to ensure compliance with labelling and safety data sheet requirements under the new WHMIS regime.
Worker training also should have been completed by Dec. 1, 2018. As products were coming into the workplace with new WHMIS 2015 labels and safety data sheets, employers should have been proactively educating their workforce. However, if you have not yet trained your workers in WHMIS 2015, now is the time to complete worker training in accordance with the new standards. No more delays; deadlines are here.
This article was reprinted with the permission of Fasken.
Carla Oliver is an occupational health and safety and human resources consultant at Fasken in Toronto, one of the world's leading international business law and litigation firms. She specializes in workplace investigations, occupational health and safety, environmental, risk management, government investigations and workers' compensation law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (416) 868-7822.