What is WHMIS?

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Working in a high-risk environment, you probably see a lot about WHMIS around the warehouse and workspace. WHMIS, or Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, is a national workplace hazard communication standard created at the federal level to ensure the safety of workers on the job. The system came into national practice on Oct. 31, 1988 and required the labeling of containers that had WHMIS controlled products, along with worker education, site training programs and material safety data sheets.

WHMIS is a special sort of system, and it represented the complete co-operation of the federal, territorial and provincial governments of the country. Ensuring that all the levels of government worked together resulted in no duplicating of the program, and complete efficiency of it.

Today, nearly 30 years after the creation of WHMIS, it is implemented throughout various industries and practiced by governments and organized labour. They share responsibility of the program, and the program continues to evolve and provide safe environments for everyone thanks to the co-operation of many sectors. The system is even taught to students in Canadian high schools, and employees who are working in nearly any environment in the country.

There are several classes of WHMIS, split up into various letters of the alphabet.

  1. Class A: This hazard level is for compressed gas.
  2. Class B: This hazard level details that the product is flammable or combustible.
  3. Class C: This hazard level is for oxidizing materials.
  4. Class D-1: This hazard level is for materials that can cause serious, and immediate, toxic effects.
  5. Class D-2: This hazard level is for materials that can cause other adverse toxic reactions.
  6. Class D-3: This hazard level is for any biohazard materials.
  7. Class E: This hazard level is put on anything that has corrosive properties.
  8. Class F: This hazard level is for anything that is dangerously reactive.

WHMIS stands today as an excellent example of several organizations, industries and government levels coming together to ensure the safety of employees and the public.