By Alexandria Tolfa
Toronto, Ontario -- September 12, 2016 -- The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is currently undergoing a significant change in Canada.
WHMIS is a system that provides suppliers, employers, employees and individuals with the necessary information to ensure their safety as they interact with hazardous materials in the workplace. Currently, WHMIS in Canada is in a multi-year transition in order to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, most commonly recognized as the Globally Harmonized System (GHS).
Employers are responsible for ensuring all employees are trained on the most up-to-date WHMIS. The importance of proper training aligns with the mandate to protect employees and employers. As we are currently in the middle of a transition, it's important to take the time and initiative to understand these changes. Many suppliers have already begun taking action in adopting the GHS. It is time for employers to do so as well.
Rob Gabriele is a Certified Health & Safety Consultant with extensive collision repair experience. He notes that WHMIS in Canada has not seen a significant alteration since its adoption back in 1998, but that's about to change. For example, WHMIS 1988 had only eight hazard classifications. The new WHMIS, in accordance with GHS, has over 30 classification hazard classes.
Gabriele points to the importance of recognizing these changes. It is not just that there are more categories. The way hazards are indicated has changed significantly.
"The new WHMIS is significantly different from the previous version in that hazard classes have been further redefined, going from eight to 31," says Gabriele. "Additionally, it is very important that employers make sure their employees are able to recognize the hazard pictograms as they are look very different from WHMIS 1988 symbols."
The transition to WHMIS 2015 won't happen overnight. It's a project that requires employers and staff to take the time and learn about the changes that are occurring in all areas of their workplace.
"Many collision repair facilities are seeing the new supplier labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS) enter their workplaces today as many of the paint manufacturing companies and suppliers have already completed their transition to the globally harmonized system," says Gabriele.
In other words, some of your suppliers are probably already using the new symbols. Ensuring staff understand that these changes have occurred and what the changes mean is extremely important.
Although the transition time for WHMIS 2015 is suggested to take place over a “multi-year transition period” as outlined by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS), symbols, labels and safety data sheets worldwide have already changed or are in progress. Staying up-to-date and as safe as possible requires that workers partake in WHMIS training.
Training is required even for those who don't use the products directly. In Gabriele's view, this is one of the most significant changes to WHMIS.
"Now every worker who may be exposed to a hazardous or controlled product must be trained. Previously, only those workers who handled or worked in proximity of the product required training," he says.
Gabriele believes training on WHMIS is essential to keeping your employees and your business safe.
"The change is happening now and the call to action for employers is to make sure that their employees are trained in the new WHMIS standard as more and more products are adopting the globally harmonized system," says Gabriele. "Providing workers with the most accurate and current information on hazardous materials protects them from injury and illness."
Gabriele is employed with SafetyOne Consulting. For more information, please call (647) 558-4676 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can learn more about the changes to WHMIS in the infographic below.