WHMIS 2015: An Update on Its Implementation Across Canada

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In April 2015, the federal government published the final Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), which, along with amendments to the Hazardous Products Act, implement the GHS in Canada in the form of WHMIS 2015. But in reality, the passing of the federal WHMIS 2015 laws and regulations was only the first step. Because of the nature of OHS regulation in Canada, each province and territory must also amend its own OHS laws accordingly for WHMIS 2015 to truly become the law of the land in Canada. So here’s an update on the progress the jurisdictions have made in implementing WHMIS 2015, the key dates you should know about and the impacts on employers.

IMPLEMENTATION STATUS

This chart shows the progress each province and territory has made in implementing WHMIS 2015 and is regularly updated. The amount of progress the jurisdictions have made varies considerably:

Done: BC, MB, NB, NT, NU, QC and YK have implemented all necessary changes to their OHS acts and regulations. The timeline for the implementation of these changes generally tracks the federal three phase approach discussed below.

In progress: Several jurisdictions (AB, ON and SK) have taken some steps toward implementing WHMIS 2015, such as proposing new regulations or making necessary changes to their OHS acts. But they still have some work to do, including issuing final regulations.

No progress: The remaining jurisdictions (NL, NS and PE) have taken no concrete steps towards implementing WHMIS 2015.

KEY DATES

The transition from the old WHMIS system (now referred to as WHMIS 1988) to WHMIS 2015 is taking place in three phases:

Phase 1 (Feb. 11, 2015 – May 31, 2017)

The first phase began on Feb. 11, 2015 when the amended federal Hazardous Products Act and new HPR took effect and will end on May 31, 2017. During Phase 1:

  • Suppliers who are chemical manufacturers or importers may sell hazardous products with either the old WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs or the new WHMIS 2015 labels and safety data sheets (SDSs); and
  • Employers may receive and use hazardous products with either the old WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs or the new WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs.

As of June 1, 2017, chemical manufacturers and importers must sell hazardous products with labels and SDSs that comply with only the new WHMIS 2015 requirements.

Phase 2 (June 1, 2017 – May 31, 2018)

Phase 2 begins on June 1, 2017 and ends on May 31, 2018. During this phase:

  • Suppliers who are chemical distributors may continue to sell hazardous products with either the old WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs or the new WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs; and
  • Employers may continue to receive and use hazardous products with either the old WHMIS 1988 labels and MSDSs or the new WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs.

But as of June 1, 2018, distributors must sell hazardous products that comply with the WHMIS 2015 requirements only. Thus, at the end of Phase 2, the transition to WHMIS 2015 will be complete for all suppliers.

Phase 3 (June 1, 2018 – Nov. 30, 2018)

The final phase will begin on June 1, 2018 and end on Nov. 30, 2018. Employers will have these final six months of the transition to bring their existing inventories of hazardous products into compliance with WHMIS 2015. So by Dec. 1, 2018, the transition to WHMIS 2015 will be complete for all parties. That is, employers must comply with the WHMIS 2015 requirements by that date.

Insider Says: For more information on WHMIS 2015, go to the nationally coordinated web portal WHMIS.org, which provides useful links to WHMIS resources from across Canada.

IMPACT ON EMPLOYERS

The federal WHMIS 2015 regulations directly impact manufacturers, importers and suppliers of hazardous products as well as federally-regulated employers. But most employers in Canada are regulated by their provincial or territorial OHS laws. So until those jurisdictions amend their OHS acts and/or regulations to reflect WHMIS 2015, those employers are still bound by the requirements under WHMIS 1988.

However, as suppliers and manufacturers begin to release hazardous products with WHMIS 2015-compliant labels and SDSs, employers may have some products in the workplace that comply with WHMIS 1988 and others that comply with WHMIS 2015. So during this transition period, if there are no products with WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs in the workplace, the employer should continue to comply with WHMIS 1988 requirements.

But if an employer receives a product that has an SDS and label complying with WHMIS 2015, it should comply with the new requirements, most notably providing workers with revised education and training on:

  • The new hazard classes, pictograms and labels;
  • Their required elements, such as signal words;
  • The meaning of all signal words and hazard statements found on labels and SDSs in the workplace;
  • The new SDS format and how to locate information needed to work safely with a product; and
  • Workplace-specific training on measures to work safely with hazardous products.

Bottom line: If an employer has hazardous products that meet both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 requirements in the workplace, it must comply with both systems, including providing training on both systems (see, WHMIS 2015 Education & Training Checklist).

Insider Says: An employer’s duties under WHMIS 2015 aren’t that different from those under WHMIS 1988. That is, employers must ensure that all hazardous products are properly labelled and that current SDSs are readily available to workers. They must also prepare workplace labels when necessary, provide worker education and training, and implement appropriate control measures to protect workers’ health and safety. We’ll discuss employer duties under WHMIS 2015 in more detail in a future article. (See, WHMIS 2015 Implementation Plan Checklist)