What Is WHMIS & Why It Matters in the Workplace

whmis signs for workplace safetyWHMIS stands for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.

WHMIS is the standard for communicating workplace hazards in Canada.

This system covers the proper labeling of workplace hazards and the communications of those hazards to employees. One would think that if you run a safe workplace, there won’t be any hazards for your staff.

While this is a great thought, it’s also wrong. Hazards can be anything that could cause harm to a worker on your property. Let’s take a closer look at how the WHMIS actually operates in the workplace.



MSDS Sheets for WHMIS

whmis msds for workplace safetyOne of the components of the WHMIS is MSDS sheets.

MSDS stands for Material Safety Data Sheets.

MSDS are some of the most crucial things you can have in a workspace. Each individual sheet discusses a substance found in the workplace and details:

  1. what chemicals are in the substance and
  2. what to do if the substance comes in contact with your eyes, skin, or is ingested.

Hearing the word “chemicals,” you might to think of chemicals like you would find in a lab. If you work in a retail store, you think you’re free from chemicals in your workplace, right?

Not in the least!

Everything you use to clean your store with involves chemicals. Some people may have an adverse reaction when they come into contact with some of these cleaning supplies. Depending upon what you sell, you may need MSDS sheets on those items as well. Places that sell things like diffuser oils may need to have an MSDS sheet on those items. You never know when a person, especially a child, may get into it and put it on their skin or ingest it.

WHMIS is a Workplace Labeling System

whmis msds for workplace safety

These are just one piece of the WHMIS. The WHMIS is a labeling system for things found in the workplace.

There are both physical hazards and items considered health hazards.

Physical hazards are things such as flammable or oxidizing gases.

In the health hazards category, this is where you will find items that are carcinogenic or items that are toxic.

The Canadian government standardized any symbols and classifications to ensure that workers across all provinces get the same information.

How WHMIS Affects and Helps Your Workplace

whmis msds for workplace safetySo how does this all affect your workplace?

Shouldn’t people know to avoid biohazards and not to drink a cleaning chemical?

Yes, someone should know these things. But not every chemical and physical hazard is as apparent.

Human nature us such that many people may think they are invincible, and they won’t be affected by these materials.

A workplace must provide all possible information to employees, so they know how to avoid contact with these materials or how to protect themselves. The WHMIS also helps alleviate a level of liability for the company.

How We Can Help

If you are unsure where any of this information is located in your workplace, ask your direct supervisor.

They should have that answer for you. If they seem unsure, then they need to speak with their supervisor about workplace safety training for the entire staff.

Even when one’s job is dealing with materials that pose more danger, you still need to know your workplace understands those risks and is prepared to deal with them.

For more on WHMIS including WHMIS training, talk to us today.


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