WHMIS 2015 Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are summary documents containing information on the hazards posed by various products and providing instruction and advice on the necessary safety precautions. On February 11, 2015, Health Canada officially declared the new Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) and the revised Hazardous Products Act (HPA) as law in Canada, setting out a specific hazard classification criteria and aligning the previous WHMIS (old WHMIS) with the GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals), which is used in the USA and other principal trading partners.
From MSDS to SDS
In the process, the original data sheets, the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) outlined in the original WHMIS have been updated and re-named Safety Data Sheets (SDS). And for clarity, the original WHMIS is now called WHMIS 1988 while the updated version is called WHMIS 2015. Requirements of WHMIS 2015 Safety Data Sheets are contained in Part 4 of the HPR (Hazardous Products Regulations) while the SDS format and related content for the 16-section SDS format is provided in Schedule 1. In the SDS, elements of the GHS have been integrated, resulting in new standardized Safety Data Sheet (SDS) requirements.
Similarities and Differences between MSDSs and SDSs
WHMIS 2015 replaces MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) with SDSs (Safety Data Sheets) to improve the classification of hazards, improve employer involvement in workplace safety, ensure safe handling of hazardous products and enhance emergency measures. Still, there are several similarities between the two types of sheets. For instance, they are both typically written by product manufacturers and suppliers, but may be prepared by employers whenever products are created and used exclusively in the workplace. Similarly, both forms contain hazard information and are more detailed than product labels.
Both types of documents are resources for workers and workplaces and help with identification of hazards and promoting precautionary measures when dealing with various products. The documents indicate the class of hazards each product is, ways of using the product safely, the dangers of not following safety recommendations, the signs and symptoms of exposure to the hazards and the steps to take in case of emergencies.
While there are a number of similarities between the two kinds of sheets, the 16-section SDSs contain different information and presents the safety data in a different format to that of the 9-section MSDSs.
WHMIS 2015 Safety Data Sheets have a more comprehensive hazard classification criteria, include new classes of hazards, make physical hazard criteria more consistent with TDG (Transport of Dangerous Goods) regulations, employ a more standardized language, and utilize a new standardized format.
While the MSDSs were updated after every three years, the SDSs must be updated within 90 days after any significant information that changes the class of the hazardous product or impacts on protective measures against the product becomes available.
Responsibilities of Stakeholders During the Transition Period
During the transition period, Importers, Manufacturers and Suppliers of hazardous products should learn and understand the GHS criteria and:
- Identify relevant data for various ingredients contained in their products.
- Determine the right categories and classes of hazards their products belong to.
- Document information and rationale for future reference.
- Use the current WHMIS 1988 9-section MSDS safety data sheets for products they are yet to re-classify according to the new requirements.
- Use the 16-section SDS format for products that they have fully studied and can avail all the required information.
- Educate their staff on both the current MSDS format and the new SDS format, highlighting the benefits of the new format and encouraging workers to embrace it
- Request for an updated 16-section safety data sheet for any new products they purchase
- Manage the safety of all data sheets and ensure that workplace-generated SDS forms comply fully with either MSDS or SDS formats
- Keep proper inventories of all hazardous and controlled products, ensuring that all hazardous products have up-to-date SDS or MSDS when entering their workplaces
- Look out for new guidelines and SDS training requirements, and exercise patience as manufacturers and suppliers transition to the new SDS format.
- Avail SDSs to workers who are exposed to any hazardous products
- Familiarize themselves with hazards of any product before they handle such products. They should study MSDS/SDS forms to know the hazards, safe handling, safe storage and emergency measures to take when handling hazardous products
- Handle every product according to manufacturer instructions and follow all precautionary measures strictly
- Participate in safety training sessions
WHMIS 2015 Safety Data Sheets are comprehensive summary documents containing crucial information about the hazards of various products, safe handling and storage, and useful emergency measures. Replacing the 9-section Material Safety Data Sheets, the new 16-section SDS forms enable Canadian suppliers, manufacturers, employers and workers to enjoy the benefits of the internationally agreed-upon GHS hazard classification and handling criteria.
While Safety Data Sheets are written in general terms and do not contain all health hazard information, they are a fundamental step towards reducing workplace injuries and fatalities and improving the safety of users of hazardous or controlled products.