The Effect of Changes in WHMIS Labels Requirements

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in Business | 0 comments

The Effect of Changes in WHMIS Labels Requirements

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) has for years, been one of the greatest ways of letting users know about the chemical hazards of products. One of the main requirements for WHMIS labels is identification of precautions that should be taken when using the products. In addition, a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) providing detailed information on the hazardous properties of products should be available. Recently, WHMIS classification and labeling has undergone some notable changes and as a manufacturer, importer or user, you are better placed if you take a look at some of them.


Much of the WHMIS modification has been driven by the need for incorporation of the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of workplace chemicals classification and labeling. In the GHS format, the hatched border label has been replaced by red borders on the WHMIS symbols. Additionally, there should be a signal word which includes hazard and precautionary information.

The label should also have information written in both English and French. The percentage of different products making up a mixture whose acute toxicity is unknown as well as toxicants activated by water should also be shown on the safety labels. Further, certain signal words and pictograms take precedence over others. For instance, ‘Danger’ is considered more important than ‘Warning.’


The WHMIS classification requirements now follow the GHS fifth edition. In addition, the classification list is now smaller. It divides the Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC) into physical and health categories and labeling is required for each of them. The new regulations have additionally adopted all classes of physical hazards with the exception of explosives classification which falls under the Canadian Explosives Act.

Some of the categories in the physical hazards include gases, flammable liquids and solids as well as organic peroxides and oxidizing substances. Infectious, corrosive and radioactive products also fall in the group. In addition, there are products which don’t belong anywhere but still hold some amount of physical danger and are, therefore, classified as miscellaneous.

The health hazards include skin corrosion and irritation, acute toxicity, eye irritation and serious damage, carcinogenicity and mutagenicity. The products may also cause breathing problems and allergy. Exposure to some of the products in the health hazards category may result to infertility or harm to the offspring.


There have been changes in several areas, including classification of physical and health hazards, amendment of the Safety Data Sheet (SDS), revised exemptions, new requirements for WHMIS labels and a new way of classifying hazardous chemicals in the workplace. However, the requirements for employers, suppliers and workers haven’t changed. The name, phone number and address of the product’s importer and manufacturer must be provided. Moreover, information on the supplier who is involved in manufacturing, producing, packaging or labeling hazardous products in Canada must be provided by the manufacturer. For those of you interested, the ICC Compliance Center website has more information available.

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