WHMIS 2015: The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

LEHDER can assist your company to prepare for, and comply with, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals in Canada - WHMIS 2015.

The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, including Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), was adopted by the United Nations in December 2002.  The GHS refers to the use of a common method of classifying and labelling of hazardous chemicals.  The GHS is necessary due to the multitude of diverse systems of classification and labelling that exist world-wide.

The purpose of the GHS is to promote common, consistent criteria for classifying chemicals according to their health, physical and environmental hazards and to encourage the use of compatible hazard labels, SDSs for workers, and other hazard communication information based on the resulting classifications.

To go directly to the latest WHMIS 2015 Regulatory Updates, please click here.  To view any related LEHDER blog posts, please click here.

Status of the GHS in Canada

On February 11, 2015, the Government of Canada promulgated the Hazardous Products Regulation (HPR) in the Canada Gazette, Part 2.  The new requirements within the HPR and the Hazardous Products Act (HPA), which was amended in 2014, will bring forth changes to the existing WHMIS (WHMIS 1988) so the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (WHMIS 2015) will align Canada’s system with the United States Hazard Communication Standard (2012) and the United Nations Purple Book, Revision 5.

To provide guidance to suppliers of hazardous products destined for Canadian workplaces and in support of the 2016-17 Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) Workplace Chemicals work plan, Health Canada committed to release Technical Guidance on the Requirements of the HPA and the HPR in two phases.  Phase 1 was released on June 29, 2016 and focused on classification principles, hazard communication and Confidential Business Information (CBI).  The Workplace Hazardous Materials Bureau has now released the full Technical Guidance on the Requirements of the HPA and the HPR – WHMIS 2015 Supplier Requirements as our second phase release. This release comprises Phase 1 content as well as Phase 2 content (focused on physical hazard and health hazard classification) in a consolidated Guidance document.  

Health Canada’s website at WHMIS.gc.ca has been updated to reflect the availability of the Technical Guidance. A PDF copy of the guidance can be requested via this link: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ewh-semt/pubs/occup-travail/technical-guidance-whmis-2015-guide-technique-simdut/index-eng.php. A copy of this document is provided below.

WHMIS 2015 Technical Guidance - Full Publication WHMIS 2015 Technical Guidance - Full Publication (2448 KB)

Transitional Periods

While WHMIS 2015 has been promulgated as law at the federal level for any federally regulated facility, the provincial and territorial occupational health and safety authorities regulate the employer requirements of WHMIS in workplaces.  As each jurisdiction follows independent legislative processes, there may be a lag between the coming-into-force of the HPA and HPR and the timing of amendments to each jurisdiction’s legislation.

To provide suppliers, employers and workers time to adjust to the new system, the implementation of WHMIS 2015 will occur in a three-stage transition period that is synchronized nationally across federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) jurisdictions.  Federally, an in-force date of date of December 1, 2018 has been determined.   

During the initial transition phase, suppliers must comply with the requirements of either WHMIS 1988 (repealed Controlled Products Regulation (CPR)/old HPA) or WHMIS 2015 (HPR/new HPA).  The classification, label and (M)SDS must fully comply with the specific law and regulation chosen and not a combination of the two WHMIS systems.  A chart outlining the transitional phases is included within Health Canada’s WHMIS Transition resource available here.

On November 3, 2014, the Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) opened the consultation period for proposed amendments to the OHSA and WHMIS Regulation based upon the amended HPA and the now promulgated HPR.  The MOL is proposing the new requirements be in force by June 1 of 2015 with a transitional period for full implementation of WHMIS 2015.

The Government of Alberta, through Work Safe Alberta, released two documents in February of 2015 to provide additional information in regards to Alberta's plans for WHMIS 2015 implementation.  This information can be viewed by selecting the following links:

Changes to WHMIS Legislation - Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin

Transition from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015 - Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin

Regulatory Updates

Ingredient Concentration Disclosures On Safety Data Sheets

On July 31, 2015, Health Canada released a Guidance document to assist Canadian suppliers and importers, as well as U.S. suppliers to Canada, in regards to the ingredient disclosure requirements for Safety Data Sheets (SDS) under WHMIS 2015.

This Guidance document summarizes the WHMIS 2015 requirements for hazardous ingredient disclosure and compares this to WHMIS 1998 and the current U.S. HCS2012 regulations.
Both Canadian and U.S. GHS-based regulations proscribe the use of broad concentration ranges (not related to production variation) are now prohibited, which is a change from the WHMIS 1988 requirements.  Actual, or ‘true’, concentrations must now be disclosed on the SDS.  

For example, a product which has an ingredient present at 11.5% +/- 0.5% could have been listed on the MSDS with a range of 10-30%. Under WHMIS 2015, it would need to be listed as 11-12% on the SDS as the use of a range requires documentation to prove that’s it a true variability based upon product formulation or process data.  Basically, if you know the true concentration of an ingredient, it must be disclosed.

While Canada and the U.S are aligned with regards to ingredient disclosures, the mechanisms to protect Confidential Business Information (CBI) are different.  In Canada, the only way to maintain proprietary ingredient information is to file a trade secret claim through the application process with Health Canada under the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act.

For more information, please view the following Health Canada Guidance Documents:

Disclosure of Ingredient Concentrations and Concentration Ranges on Safety Data Sheets Disclosure of Ingredient Concentrations and Concentration Ranges on Safety Data Sheets (127 KB)

Comparison of Ingredient Concentration Disclosure and CBI Protection Requirements Comparison of Ingredient Concentration Disclosure and CBI Protection Requirements (85 KB)

Status of the GHS in the United States

The United States has adopted the GHS through the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 2012 by publishing their final rule in the Federal register on March 26, 2012. Key dates for compliance in the U.S. are:

  • All U.S. employees must be trained on the new label elements and SDSs by December 1, 2013
  • Compliance with all modified provisions of this rule by June 1, 2015* (*Distributor shipping without GHS label deadline is December 1, 2015)
  • Update alternative workplace labeling and hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards by June 1, 2016.


It must be noted that there are some significant variances between the requirements of the U.S. and Canadian systems, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Bilingual labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDS);
  • Supplier Identifiers;
  • Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified/Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified vs. Hazards Not Otherwise Classified;
  • Biohazardous Infectious Materials; Updating of SDS and label information;
  • Labels on multi-container shipments and kit outer containers.

For more information on the variances, visit Health Canada’s resource document here.

WHMIS 2015 Resources

WHMIS 2015 information can be found on Health Canada’s website or on the new, nationally coordinated WHMIS 2015 information portal.  Additional regulatory and resource document links are located below for your convenience:

WHMIS 2015 (GHS) Training

LEHDER is pleased to provide a NEW eLearning training option for companies who are affected by the WHMIS 2015 (GHS) implementation. LEHDER's eLearning Program offers students the ability to complete safety training or certification courses in an online, self-paced environment.  To view the WHMIS 2015 courses available, please visit the eLearning Course Directory.  The Sarnia-Lambton Industrial Alliance Media Release on LEHDER's eLearning Program is also available to view:

SLIA_Media Release SLIA_Media Release (24 KB)

LEHDER also provides a regularly scheduled classroom WHMIS 2015 training course in Ontario and Alberta. The session will outline the purpose, scope and application of WHMIS 2015, what has transpired to date and how to implement WHMIS 2015 in Canadian businesses.  LEHDER recommends Plant Managers, Environmental Health & Safety Managers/Co-ordinators, Warehouse and Distribution Managers/Co-ordinators and R&D/Laboratory Personnel attend WHMIS 2015 training sessions.  Customized training solutions are also available for your facility.

Please visit our Training page for our detailed training schedule, course outlines and online registration.

How Can LEHDER assist?

Based on our extensive experience with the classification and labelling of hazardous materials, LEHDER can assess your facility to determine how WHMIS 2015 will impact documentation and labelling requirements for your products. Further, we can conduct a training needs assessment in order to prepare and deliver customized WHMIS 2015 training applicable to your product line(s).


For more detailed information on WHMIS 2015, how it may affect your facility or your training requirements, please contact:

Mark Roehler

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