Workplace safety is a top priority for employers and employees, and the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) plays a critical role in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.
Employers must ensure that their workers are properly trained on the WHMIS program and that the required information is readily available in the workplace.
Failure to comply with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) can have serious legal consequences for companies. In Canada, the federal government and each province and territory have laws that enforce WHMIS requirements, and non-compliance can result in penalties and fines.
Today, we are exploring how to develop a WHMIS program for your workplace and how WHMIS helps to keep workers safe on the job.
Whether you are an employer or an employee, understanding the fundamental principles of WHMIS is essential for promoting a safe and secure workplace.
7 Steps to Develop WHMIS Program for Your Organisation
Here is a comprehensive guide to creating an effective Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) program for your organisation.
Step 1: Identity Hazardous Materials
The first step involves thoroughly assessing all hazardous materials used, stored, or handled in the workplace. This includes chemicals, pesticides, flammable liquids, gases, and other substances that may risk workers' health and safety.
It is essential to gather information on these materials' properties and potential hazards, including their physical and chemical characteristics, fire and explosion hazards, and any toxic effects.
This information will be used to develop appropriate safe handling procedures and ensure workers have the information they need to work safely with these materials.
Step 2: Hazardous Product Inventory Listing
This step involves creating a comprehensive list of all hazardous materials in the workplace. This list should include the product name, manufacturer, supplier, and product code, as well as a description of its properties, potential hazards, and safe handling procedures. This information should be updated regularly to remain accurate and up-to-date.
The hazardous product inventory listing can ensure that all workers have access to the information they need to work safely with hazardous materials and help employers identify areas where additional training or resources may be required.
It can also be used to track the movement of hazardous materials within the workplace, including the date of receipt, the date of use, and the date of disposal, to ensure that hazardous materials are handled and disposed of safely and following regulations.
Step 3: Provide WHMIS Training to employees
This step involves providing workers with the training they need to work safely with hazardous materials. The training should cover the following topics:
- Overview of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) and its purpose
- The role of workers and employers in ensuring the safe use of hazardous materials in the workplace
- Hazard classification, including the symbols and labels, used to identify hazardous materials
- The importance of reading product labels and material safety data sheets (MSDS)
- Understanding the properties and potential hazards of hazardous materials
- Safe handling, use, storage and disposal procedures for hazardous materials
- Emergency response procedures and first aid measures in the event of an accident or exposure
WHMIS training helps ensure that workers are aware of the hazards associated with the chemicals they work with and that they have the information they need to work safely with these materials.
Proper training can also help prevent accidents, illnesses, and injuries and protect workers and employers from legal liabilities and financial losses.
Step 4: Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
An MSDS is a detailed document that provides information on a hazardous material's properties and potential hazards.
It is an essential component of the WHMIS program, as it allows workers the information they need to work safely with hazardous materials, including:
- Product name and manufacturer
- Physical and chemical properties
- Fire and explosion hazards
- Health hazards, including toxic effects and first aid measures
- Reactivity and stability information
- Handling, storage, and disposal procedures
- Emergency response information
Obtaining MSDS is a critical component of the WHMIS program, as it provides workers with the information they need to work safely with hazardous materials and helps to ensure that all hazardous materials in the workplace are appropriately labelled and stored.
To obtain MSDS for all hazardous materials in your workplace, you can visit the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website or contact the manufacturer or supplier of the product.
In many cases, MSDS can be obtained directly from the manufacturer's website or through a database of MSDS maintained by the supplier. Therefore, you must ensure that you have up-to-date MSDS for all workplace hazardous materials and keep them easily accessible for all workers.
Step 5: Implement Proper Hazardous Material Labelling
This step involves ensuring that all hazardous materials in the workplace are properly labeled with the information required by WHMIS. This includes the product name, supplier, and product code, as well as symbols and other information that identify the hazardous properties of the material.
The label should be legible, clearly visible, and placed on the container to make it easily accessible to workers.
Proper labeling of hazardous materials is essential for promoting a safe and healthy work environment and helps to ensure that workers have the information they need to work safely with these materials.
Step 6: Develop Policies and Procedures
This involves creating written policies and procedures for the safe handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous materials in the workplace. The policies and procedures should include specific guidelines for handling spills and emergencies and be easily accessible to all workers.
A comprehensive emergency response plan should be developed that outlines procedures for responding to accidents and exposures, including first aid measures, evacuation procedures, and emergency response procedures.
The plan should be reviewed regularly, and all workers should be trained on the procedures outlined in the plan. In addition, a spill containment plan should be developed that outlines procedures for responding to spills of hazardous materials, including procedures for containing the spill, cleaning up the spill, and disposing of the contaminated materials.
Step 7: Regularly assess the program's effectiveness
This involves conducting regular reviews of the WHMIS program to assess its effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. This can be done through self-assessment, employee feedback, and periodic workplace inspections.
During the review process, the following should be evaluated:
- Compliance with WHMIS regulations and standards
- Effectiveness of training programs
- Accuracy and availability of MSDS
- Proper labelling of hazardous materials
- Compliance with policies and procedures for handling hazardous materials and emergency response
Based on the review results, necessary changes and improvements can be made to the program to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the workplace.
Which Products Are Included in the WHMIS Program?
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) applies to a wide range of hazardous materials used in Canadian workplaces, including chemicals, pesticides, and compressed gases.
Specifically, the WHMIS program applies to controlled products classified as hazardous under the Hazardous Products Act and its associated regulations.
These hazardous products are divided into six classes based on their specific hazards:
- Class A - Compressed Gases
- Class B - Flammable and Combustible Materials
- Class C - Oxidizing Materials
- Class D - Poisonous and Infectious Materials
- Class E - Corrosive Materials
- Class F - Dangerously Reactive Materials
It is important to note that the WHMIS program covers not all chemicals and hazardous materials used in the workplace. For example, consumer products, such as cleaning products and personal care items, are not typically covered by the program.
The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a critical component of workplace safety in Canada. Therefore, employers are responsible for the WHMIS training of their workers and need to develop and implement an effective WHMIS program to protect workers from the health and safety hazards associated with hazardous materials in the workplace.
The 7 steps outlined in this blog can help you understand how to develop a WHMIS program for your workplace. By following these steps and regularly reviewing and updating their program as needed, employers can help protect their workers and create a safer and healthier workplace environment.
Whether you are an experienced safety professional or just starting to develop a WHMIS program, the information provided in this blog is an excellent starting point to help you complete online safety training as per your industry requirement and federal safety regulation.