WHMIS training and education 101
Education and training are key components of Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), which is designed to protect worker health and safety and to reduce the prevalence of occupational disease.
WHMIS legislation sets out employer responsibilities when a hazardous product is used in the workplace. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), employers are required to:
- Educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of products.
- Ensure that hazardous products are properly labelled.
- Prepare workplace labels, as needed.
- Prepare Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), as necessary (e.g., if an employer manufactures a hazardous product that is used on-site).
- Provide access to up-to-date SDSs to workers.
- Ensure appropriate control measures are in place to protect the health and safety of workers.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the WHMIS requirement to educate and train workers on the hazards and safe use of chemical products.
Chemical hazard “education” and “training” are not the same thing – and WHMIS requires both!
The CCOHS states that WHMIS education and training are two separate requirements:
“Education refers to general or portable information such as how WHMIS works and the hazards of the products. For example, you will learn about the hazard classes (e.g., why a product is called a corrosive, and what information you can find on labels and SDSs).
Training refers to the site- and job-specific information to employees that will cover your workplace’s procedures for storage, handling, use, disposal, emergencies, spills, and what to do in unusual situations.”
General WHMIS education applies to all workplaces; however, each workplace is different, and the potential exposure to hazardous products will vary. Employers must make sure that workers also receive training that is specific to your workplace, and to the work that your employees will be performing.
WHMIS education is general in nature
Online WHMIS courses typically address the WHMIS educational requirement, providing employees with the following information:
- An explanation of how the WHMIS system works, e.g., that hazardous products are grouped into classes and categories.
- A review of a limited number of hazards – e.g., “Simple asphyxiants are gases that displace air.”
- Clarification of roles and responsibilities – e.g., “Employers are responsible for ensuring workers understand the hazards of the products they work with.”
This is useful general information but does not provide the workplace or chemical-specific information that is also required by WHMIS.
WHMIS training is specific to the hazards found in your workplace
For each chemical product in your workplace, WHMIS also requires employers to ensure that employees receive site- and job-specific training on the procedures in place for safe storage, handling, use, disposal, emergencies, spills, and other unusual situations.
To safely handle chemical products, workers should be able to answer these four questions for every hazardous product they work with:
- What are the hazards of the product?
- How do I protect myself from those hazards?
- What do I do in case of an emergency?
- Where can I get further information?
See more information from the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development about employers’ responsibilities to educate workers who work with, or may be exposed to, a hazardous product.
Effective WHMIS training with SDS RiskAssist
SDS RiskAssist takes a two-pronged approach to help employers address WHMIS’s site- and job-specific training requirement in an effective and expeditious manner.
Our Hazard Micro-Training Module focuses on the most common hazards in your workplace, which we determine using SDS RiskAssist chemical safety software. For example, eye hazards are the most common chemical hazard found in Canadian workplaces. There are 3 different hazard statements. Information on these hazards is as follows:
This allows training to focus on the most commonly found hazards in a given workplace. This training could differ between locations for the same employer.
SDS RiskAssist SafetySnaps are clear, concise summaries of all your SDSs with easy-to-understand instructions and PPE requirements at a glance.
No longer are workers required to spend hours reading SDSs and trying remember an impossible amount of information to stay safe on the job. SafetySnaps make all the essential information easily accessible 24/7 on a smartphone so employees have all the info they need at a glance – training on the go – to reduce the risk of incidents that can affect their health and safety and result in lost time, delays and major fines.