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Understanding WHMIS Requirements

When people think about safety training, one of the first things to come to mind is WHMIS. While everyone seems to know that WHMIS training is required, there is often confusion about what those requirements actually are.

First of all, online training alone for WHMIS is not sufficient. Yes, some sort of generic training on WHMIS

symbols, labels, and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) is required. However, you must also ensure that

employees receive workplace-specific practical training on the hazardous products they use or are

exposed to. Practical training includes reviewing the proper use, storage, and disposal of the products,

as well as what Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required and what the First Aid measures are in

the event of exposure. It is especially important for employees to understand which products are not to be mixed, as mixing chemicals can lead to some very dangerous and even fatal circumstances. For example, mixing bleach and ammonia when cleaning creates chloramine gas which can be poisonous if inhaled.

Secondly, WHMIS needs to be reviewed annually. This does not necessarily mean the full WHMIS training module needs to be redone annually, although that is certainly one way to fulfil this requirement.

Alternatively, a scaled-down review of the symbols, labels, and SDSs can meet this requirement as well.

This could be done through a safety meeting, safety talk, online review, etc. Remember during this annual review to make sure that practical training is also up-to-date. If there have been new hazardous products brought into your workplace, they need to be reviewed with your employees.

Finally, employers are responsible for ensuring all WHMIS products are properly labelled and have

up-to-date SDSs. If your organization is transferring products from a larger container into alternative

containers for use (i.e. spray bottles, buckets, etc.) you need to ensure that these containers have proper

workplace labels, not just the product name written in Sharpie, or worse, not labelled at all! You cannot

assume that someone will know what is in an unlabelled bottle simply based on its colour, consistency, or smell.

Think WHMIS doesn’t apply to your company or your offices? Did you know that fire extinguishers are

hazardous products with multiple hazard categories? All workplaces have at least one hazardous product, so you need to make sure you are complying with the WHMIS requirements. WHMIS is more than just online training, so make sure your workplace does a full review of your WHMIS program to ensure requirements are being met.


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