WHMIS 2015 – What does it mean for you?

Canada has aligned the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).

GHS is an international initiative to standardize chemical hazard classification and communication globally.

WHMIS first became law in 1988 (WHMIS 1988) and has remained virtually unchanged until 2015 when GHS elements were incorporated (WHMIS 2015).

The goal is to have a common set of rules for classifying hazardous products, common rules for labels, and a standard format for safety data sheets (SDS).


Classification criteria have changed for WHMIS 2015 with more comprehensive hazard criteria and new hazard classes.

WHMIS 2015 incorporates physical and health hazard classes from the GHS and retains the Biohazardous Infectious Materials hazard class.

WHMIS 2015 also introduces hazard classes for Pyrophoric Gases, Simple Asphyxiants, and Combustible Dusts, which are not covered in the GHS.


There are new requirements for supplier labels. Hazard communication is more standardized with prescribed hazard statements, signal words, pictograms and precautionary statements.

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

SDSs follow a standard 16-section format with specific information requirements. In Canada SDSs continue to be required in both English and French.

The WHMIS 2015 legislation is currently in force  which means that suppliers may begin to use and follow the new requirements for labels and safety data sheets (SDSs) for hazardous products sold, distributed, or imported into Canada. However, there is a transition period with various stages.

Transition Period

A multi-year transition plan was put in place to move from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015.

From February 2015 until May 2018, manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers were able to use either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015.

From June 1, 2018, manufacturers and importers must use WHMIS 2015 to classify and communicate the hazards of their products.

From September 1, 2018 distributors must sell hazardous products with labels and (M)SDSs that are compliant with WHMIS 2015.

Starting on December 1, 2018 employers and workplaces should be WHMIS 2015 compliant.

What are my duties as an employer/worker?

Although according to the transition period, workplaces don’t need to be fully WHMIS 2015 compliant until December 1, 2018, manufacturers and suppliers will be generating products with the new labels, and SDSs.

It is important for the employers to educate workers about WHMIS 2015 requirements to recognize hazards, workplace labels, and SDSs.

Employers are expected to:

  • Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of products.
  • Ensure that hazardous products are properly labelled.
  • Prepare workplace labels, as needed.
  • Provide access to up-to-date SDSs to workers.

Workers are expected to receive WHMIS 2015 education, take necessary steps to protect themselves and their co-workers, and participate in identifying and controlling hazards.


Additional Reading and More Information


Worksafe BC

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety

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