Everything There is to Know
One topic that is common among Canadian workers, employers and legislative organizations is WHMIS training. Doing a simple google search will reveal that the topic of WHMIS training presents many questions, some that have clear answers, and others with answers that are no so clear.
We’ve put together this resource to answer all of your questions and provide you with all of the WHMIS training information that you’ll ever need.
Whether you’re an individual worker looking to get your WHMIS certification, or an employer looking to find out what your responsibilities are relating to WHMIS training, this resource is for you.
WHMIS Training and Education. What is it?
WHMIS training and education refers to information and instruction that must be provided to most Canadian workers. While there are many different methods in which workers can receive WHMIS Training and Education, the goal always remains the same; ensure that workers receive, understand, and use the necessary WHMIS information to stay safe while working with hazardous products in the workplace.
General and Workplace Specific Training
WHMIS Training and Education consists of two parts; training and education.
Education, which is commonly referred to as “general” or “generic” training, is intended to provide general information on WHMIS principals, safety data sheets, hazard classification, labels, and other knowledge that is not specific to an individual workplace.
The topics commonly included in General Training / Education are:
- What WHMIS is and its purpose
- Duties and responsibilities
- How chemicals enter the body
- Adverse health effects
- Labels and what they’re required to display
- How to read safety data sheets
- General safety guidelines
Training, or “Workplace-specific training” refers to information that is job-specific and/or site-specific. It communicates relevant workplace procedures for handling, storing, using, and the disposal of hazardous products that are specific to the actual workplace or worksite where the employee will be working. It also includes information about the actual hazardous products that the workers will be using.
The topics commonly included in Workplace-specific training are:
- Specific safety precautions
- Emergency procedures
- Handling and use requirements
- Required PPE, where to find it, and how it’s used
- Specialized policies and procedures relating to specific chemicals
- The meaning of signal words and hazard statements on labels and SDSs in the workplace
- Workplace labeling requirements
WHMIS Training Requirements
Some of the most common questions about WHMIS training relate to the specific requirements. These include questions such as who needs WHMIS Training, what content needs to be included, and how often should workers receive WHMIS training, among others. Even though the answers to these questions are dependent on several factors, and are not always clear, there are guidelines and best practices that can be followed to ensure that WHMIS Training requirements are being met at all times.
Who Needs WHMIS Training?
Depending on who you ask, the answer to the question, “who needs WHMIS training”, can vary significantly. Answers can range from, “workers who use chemicals to, “everyone in Canada”.
To figure out the best answer to this question, let’s consider the specific purpose of WHMIS training; to protect workers in Canada from chemical hazards in the workplace. By examining this alone, we can conclude that there are two factors that both must be present in order for an individual to require WHMIS Training:
- The individual must be a worker in Canada
- The worker must be at risk of exposure to chemical hazards in the workplace
The first one is easy. It’s not difficult to determine if an individual is a worker in Canada. The second one, in some cases, is also easy. If an individual works directly with a chemical or multiple chemicals, then it’s obvious that a risk of exposure to chemical hazards exists.
Here’s where it gets tricky.
Most workers in Canada do not actually work directly with hazardous products. Some employers believe that because of this, they don’t need to provide training to their workers. This is simply not true. Even if a worker does not work directly with hazardous products, depending on circumstances in the workplace, they can still be exposed to chemical hazards.
Consequently, even if an employee infrequently works near a chemical product, and for a short period of time is exposed to the hazards associated with the product, they’ll need to be trained on WHMIS.
The Extent of Training
Chemical products are everywhere, therefore, they can likely be found in a very large percentage of workplaces. It’s up to an employer to determine what chemicals hazards are present, and then determine if their employees will be exposed to them. In most cases, their workers will require WHMIS training.
What’s important in many of these cases is the extent of Training that’s required.
An employee that directly works with a hazardous chemical will require more extensive training than an employee who works near a closet where cleaning supplies are stored. Both will require general WHMIS training at a minimum. The employee who works directly with a hazardous product will require additional training that is specific to the chemicals that they’re handling.
The following articles provide additional information on who requires WHMIS training:
What Should WHMIS Training Include?
As previously mentioned, there are two types of WHMIS Training; general and workplace specific. Defining what content is required in general training is relatively straightforward, so let’s start there.
One of the most important content requirements of general WHMIS training is related to compliance. To put it simply, any general training worthy of taking or giving to your workers must be compliant, and up-to-date with the current standards and legislation.
In February of 2015, Canada adopted several components from the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemical (GHS). This resulted in what is now called WHMIS 2015. As of that date, in order for Training to be compliant, it has to include WHMIS 2015 information. However, there’s more to it.
Because there is a transitional period for WHMIS 2015 that lasts until 2018, components from the old WHMIS (WHMIS 1988) will still be used in Candian workplaces. This means that not only does training have to include WHMIS 2015 to be compliant, but WHMIS 1988 as well.
General Training should include information on the following topics:
- What WHMIS is and why it’s important
- WHMIS rights and responsibilities
- Chemicals and their adverse health effects
- How chemicals enter the body
- Hazard classification
- The meanings of symbols and pictograms
- How to read safety data sheets and material safety data sheets
- How to read labels, and what information is required to be displayed on them
- WHMIS education and training requirements
- General safety and protective measures
Workplace Specific Training
Different workplaces use different hazardous products and have unique circumstances. Because of this, the content required to be included in workplace specific training is not quite as easy to define. As a result, employers must assess their workplaces and the actual chemicals that they use in order to determine what their workplace specific training will contain.
Workplace specific training should include information on the following:
- The types of chemicals used in the workplace
- Specific safety precautions
- Emergency procedures
- Handling, use, and accidental spill requirements
- Required personal protective equipment, where to find it, and how to use it
- Specialized policies and procedures
- First aid measures
WHMIS Knowledge Evaluation
All WHMIS Training should conclude with an evaluation of some type that verifies the learner has retained the required WHMIS information and knowledge. The most common types of evaluations used are tests, quizzes, exams, and even knowledge “checkpoints” strategically placed throughout the training.
WHMIS Training evaluations are extremely important. They help to ensure that a worker is competent in the subject matter, and possesses the knowledge to protect themselves from chemical hazards that they may encounter in the workplace.
When and How Often?
Two of the most common questions relating to WHMIS Training are, “when is WHMIS Training required”, and, “how often do workers need it”. The latter is basically the same as asking whether or not WHMIS Training Expires. We’re going to examine both.
First, let’s address the question of when since it’s relatively easy and straight forward.
When is Training Required
Workers must be trained in WHMIS before handling or working around hazardous products. To put it in practical terms, if you have an employee who starts working for you today, and there&