WHMIS Training: The Ultimate Guide

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WHMIS Training 101

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 not 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 certification, or an employer looking to find out what your responsibilities are relating to WHMIS training, this resource is for you.

What is WHMIS Education and Training?

WHMIS education and training 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 information to stay safe while working with hazardous products in the workplace.

General and Workplace Specific Training

WHMIS Education and Training consists of two parts; education and training.

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
  • Pictograms
  • 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
general and workplace specific whmis training

WHMIS Training Requirements

Some of the most common questions about WHMIS training relate to the specific requirements. These include questions such as who needs the Training, what content needs to be included, and how often should workers receive the 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 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 the training:

  1. The individual must be a worker in Canada
  2. 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 the 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.

Workers Must Receive 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.

General Training

One of the most important content requirements of general 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 severa