If you deal with hazardous materials as an employer or a supplier, the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) can help you make your business a safer place. This Canada-wide hazard communication standard is law under the Canada Labour Code and requires you to use, handle, store and dispose of hazardous materials safely. You need to label “controlled products”, supply material safety data sheets that contain information about them and provide training programs for your employees.

Do you use any of the following hazardous materials in your business? These are controlled products and should all bear the appropriate warning symbol:

• Compressed gas
• Flammable and combustible material
• Oxidizing material
• Poisonous and infectious material causing immediate and serious toxic effects
• Poisonous and infectious material causing other toxic effects
• Poisonous and infectious material – biohazardous
• Corrosive material
• Dangerously reactive material

If you are a supplier, you must:

• Provide up-to-date material safety data sheets for all controlled products that you sell or produce
• Provide supplier labels on all containers of controlled products that you supply or produce

If you are an employer, you must:

• Track all hazardous materials in your workplace
• Ensure that all containers are properly labelled
• Have up-to-date material safety data sheets and make them available to your employees
• Train your employees to recognize, understand and work safely with hazardous materials

Consider providing protection for the eyes and face, as well as safety gloves, footwear and clothing. Have a respirator and a first aid kit available and establish emergency procedures. Planning for occupational health and safety leads to a more productive workplace. Safety can prevent lost time, increased insurance costs, injuries, and fines and penalties.

If you need help with implementation, private WHMIS consultants might be of help. Classroom and online training is available from various organizations. A series of handy fact sheets about WHMIS is available from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

To get more detailed information on the legislation that applies to your workplace, contact the occupational health and safety agency in your jurisdiction.

See our section on Workplace health and safety for more resources.