WHMIS Legislation and Exemptions

WHMIS Legislation and Exemptions

WHMIS extends through both Federal and Provincial legislative domains:

  • Federal legislation- establishes which products are regulated under WHMIS and deals with either the importation or sale of these materials. Under WHMIS, those who manufacture, import, sell or distribute hazardous products are referred to as suppliers.
  • Provincial legislation – once a controlled product enters a workplace, jurisdiction over the product shifts from federal to provincial governments (except for workplaces under federal jurisdiction, where the provisions of the amended Canada Labour Code apply). The provincial legislation encompasses the use of hazardous products in the workplace and identifies employers’ responsibilities. Workers who work with or are in close proximity to hazardous products must know how to handle these products safely.

Federal Legislation

On February 11, 2015, the Government of Canada published the Hazardous Products Regulation (HPR), which along with the amended Hazardous Products Act (HPA) aims to update the WHMIS 1988 system to incorporate the changes brought upon by the GHS classification system ; this modified WHMIS is referred to as WHMIS 2015. The Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) and the Ingredients Disclosure List (IDL) of WHMIS 1988 has been repealed.

Although WHMIS 2015 presents a harmonized approach for hazard classification and poses structural changes to labels and safety data sheets (SDS), the roles and responsibilities of suppliers, employers, and workers remain unchanged.

Hazardous Products Regulation

The federal Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) came into effect in February 2015 and replaces the Controlled Products Regulations of WHMIS 1988.

The HPR outlines the criteria for classifying hazards. If a product covered by the Hazardous Products Act meets the criteria to be included in a hazard class or category, it is considered to be a hazardous product. All hazardous products used in the workplace are covered by WHMIS 2015 regulations, and a WHMIS program, which includes education and training, must be in place.

Hazardous Products Act

The federal Hazardous Products Act (HPA) was amended in 2014. This Act was established to “prohibit the sale and importation of hazardous products that are intended for use, handling or storage in a workplace”. The HPA outlines the responsibilities of suppliers, who sell or import hazardous materials for use in Canadian workplaces, to ensure proper labels and safety data sheets are provided to their customers.

Provincial Legislation

The workplace falls under provincial jurisdiction and is governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

This Act outlines the role of the employer, the supervisor and the employee in the workplace. It places duties on these groups to ensure that the worksite is a safe and healthy place to work. The Act gives workers the right to refuse unsafe work, the right to know about hazards on the job and the right to representation on a Joint Health and Safety Committee.

In order to adopt the GHS standards, all Canadian provinces and territories are currently in the process of amending their WHMIS requirements to be aligned with the federal changes. In Ontario, amendments have been made to both the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the WHMIS Regulation, which reflect the federal changes.

Responsibilities of Stakeholders

  •  Ensure appropriate classification of hazardous products
  • Obtain or prepare up-to-date labels and SDSs within 90 days of acquiring new information for all hazardous products produced or sold
  • Provide labels and SDSs to customers of hazardous products that are intended for use in workplace
  • Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of hazardous products in the workplace
  • Ensure all hazardous products are properly labelled
  • Prepare workplace labels and SDSs (as necessary)
  • Ensure up-to-date SDSs are readily available to workers
  • Ensure appropriate control measures are in place for the health and safety of workers
  • Participate in WHMIS education and training programs
  • Participate in identifying and controlling hazards
  • Take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers

Exemptions from WHMIS Legislation

The following products are exempt from the WHMIS 2015 legislation:

  • Explosives (as defined in the Explosives Act)
  • Cosmetics, devices, drugs or foods (as defined in the Food and Drugs Act)
  • Pest control products (as defined in the Pest Control Products Act)
  • Consumer products (as defined in the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act)
  • Wood or wood products;
  • Tobacco or tobacco products (as defined in the Tobacco Act)
  • Nuclear substance that is radioactive (as defined in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act)
  • Manufactured articles
  • Hazardous waste; refers to hazardous product that is sold for recycling/recovery and is intended for disposal

The majority of these products are covered under other legislation.

NOTE: While these products may be exempt from having a WHMIS label and SDS, buyers/users of these products must comply with all labelling requirements prescribed within the above acts and regulations. Furthermore, employers are still responsible for providing education and training on health effects, safe use, and storage of these products.