In 2016, there were more than 240,000 workplace injuries and illnesses in Canada. Keeping Canadians safe at work needs to be a top priority for employers and employees alike.

One initiative is the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System. The federal government introduced this program, also known as WHMIS, in 1988. It was most recently updated in 2015.

For WHMIS to work, everyone needs to be educated and aware. Creating a safer workplace for your Canadian employees is easy. Here’s what you need to know about WHMIS training.

The WHMIS Program

Before you look at WHMIS training for your employees, you’ll probably ask, “What is the purpose of WHMIS?”

As we said, the idea behind this federal program is to make workplaces safer for all Canadians. With the right information, people can make better decisions. They can work smarter and safer.

WHMIS establishes standards for communicating about potential hazards in the workplace. Material safety data sheets, for example, give details about the risks of a product. They also give employees instructions on how to use this product and reduce their risks.

WHMIS education refers to the process of training employees to understand MSDSs. WHMIS training usually includes other workplace safety procedures as well.

The Design of Good WHMIS Training

You know WHMIS can help you create a safer workplace for your Canadian employees. Canadian law requires employers to follow the rules of WHMIS. It’s the employer’s job to provide training for their employees.

What is WHMIS training? To start, it educates your employees about the WHMIS program. For example, it teaches them how to read the symbols and material safety data sheets.

The WHMIS program uses special symbols to communicate about hazards. You must teach your employees how to read this information. It’s important for you to provide a material safety data sheet. It’s just as important to help workers understand this sheet.

WHMIS training also includes other aspects of workplace safety. It helps employees learn to recognize potential hazards. They’ll also learn how to report these hazards.

The right WHMIS training goes farther. For example, it may also teach employees how to use personal protective equipment.

WHMIS training also teaches about rights and responsibilities when it comes to workplace safety. When everyone is aware of the role they play, the workplace can become even safer.

A Quick Checklist

If you’re wondering what must be trained in WHMIS, take a look for these topics:

  • Hazard classes and categories
  • Pictograms and labels
  • Safety data sheets
  • Job-specific and site-specific training, such as PPE for handling materials
  • Procedures to follow when someone is at risk or exposed to a material
  • Emergency procedures

The experts at outline some of the specifics for different jobs. You can see them by visiting their homepage.

When Employees Need WHMIS Training

You may be wondering when you need to provide WHMIS training. After all, if you work in an office, you may not think there are that many dangers.

The government requires WHMIS training for any employee who might work with hazardous materials. Any workplace where employees could handle hazardous materials must offer training. Even if they’re only handling household cleaners, your employees need training.

Whether you work in an office or on a construction site, you must make sure WHMIS is being followed.

The reason for this is simple. Hazardous materials are everywhere, including everyday products like household cleaners. WHMIS training helps people know when they’re using something that could be harmful.

WHMIS may also extend to other safety procedures around handling hazardous materials. For example, employees may need to know how to store cleaners the right way, even in an office space. Employees on a construction site may need to know the right PPE to handle hot asphalt.

The Benefits of WHMIS

You might wonder, “Why is WHMIS important?” To many people, WHMIS often seems “common sense.” Employers who are new to Canada or starting a business may feel providing training is a waste.

Non-compliance with WHMIS could mean you’ll face fines or other penalties. These can add up, but there are also other costs to your business and your employees.

WHMIS is important because it helps people stay safer in the workplace. Since the introduction of WHMIS, workplace injuries have declined. Before WHMIS, more than half a million Canadians were injured on the job each year.

While the program hasn’t eliminated workplace injuries altogether, it has helped.

With fewer on-the-job accidents, illnesses, and injuries, employers can realize other benefits too. You may not need to compensate as many employees for missed time. They may also be more productive on the floor.

You can also avoid lawsuits made by injured workers. Employees made to work in unsafe conditions might make other claims against you.

Most important, WHMIS helps you protect your employees. Avoiding injury and illness helps them live their best lives. It sends them home safe to their families at the end of every shift.

Updates to WHMIS

The WHMIS program was most recently updated in 2015. The old material safety data sheets have been replaced. The 2015 program also updates the symbols used.

Employers have until June 2019 to complete their updates to MSDSs. It also means it’s time to update training for your employees.

Employers should provide re-education and re-certification opportunities to employees on a regular basis. It never hurts to give employees a refresher course. You should review your WHMIS training at least once a year.

This helps ensure their safety on the floor of the factory, at the office, or on a construction site.

Stay Safe at Work

For Canadian employees and employers, WHMIS isn’t just a government rule they need to follow. It’s a program that protects them. The right training helps employees and employers alike enjoy increased workplace safety.

Are you looking for more information on how you can improve your workplace? Check out some of our articles for business improvement. A better business is near at hand.