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Changes to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information system (WHMIS) - What you need to know
Absence and Disability Management

Changes to the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information system (WHMIS) - What you need to know

November 17, 2020

We know that keeping employees safe in the workplace is the number one goal of employers in Canada.  When a workplace contains hazardous materials on site this can present unique challenges, which is why in 2015 changes were made to the labelling system used to mark hazardous materials.   Here is what you need to know about the new changes coming your way.  


WHMIS is the abbreviation for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. This system  provides information on how hazardous products need to  be used, handled and stored in  workplaces in Canada.

You are probably already familiar with some of the pictograms like the flammable icon and now a few new ones have been added. Importantly pictograms are no longer surrounded by a square black border, but by a red diamond-shaped border. The only pictogram with a black border is the one for biohazardous infectious materials.

  • New Safety Data Sheets: The old Material Safety Data Sheet has been replace with the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).  On the new SDS the terminology and the way the information is presented has been standardized to make it easier to find important information.
  • New Labels: The hatched border around the supplier label has been eliminated, along with the reference to the Material Data Safety Sheet and first aid. Labels will now state “Danger” for high risk hazards or “Warning” for less severe hazards. Some labels will include a ‘Precautionary statement’ which will be standardized phrases to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure, improper handling or storage of a hazardous product

What do you need to do?

Employees must be given general information about the nature and importance of the information on labels and safety data sheets. The employer must also provide specific training on the hazardous products being used in the workplace, to ensure all such products are used safely.

Employers have until December 2018 to update their WHMIS system. After the transition period, all hazardous products in the workplace must meet the requirements of the new legislation. However, during the transition period, both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 can be used.


For more information, see the following websites: - Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety - CNESST