WHMIS: What You Need to Know

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WHMIS: What You Need to Know

We are currently updating the following sections as per the new WHMIS 2015. In the interim please refer to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety WHMIS pages.

A publication of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, University of Toronto 

printed 1989, reprinted September 1992


  1. Introduction
  2. WHMIS Legislation and Exemptions
  3. Chemical Hazards
  4. Flammable substances
  5. Reactive Substances
  6. Health Effects of Toxic Substances
  7. Exposure Limits
  8. Protective Measures
  9. Hazard Symbols
  10. Labels
  11. Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS)
  12. Glossary of Terms


The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS for short) is a comprehensive national system for safe management of hazardous chemicals which is legislated by both the federal and provincial jurisdictions. WHMIS is a tripartite effort of labour, industry, and government which took several years to develop; it is unique in that it represents a consensus of these three groups.

The WHMIS legislation provides that workers must be informed about the hazards in the workplace and receive appropriate training to enable them to work safely. To accomplish this, WHMIS requires all suppliers (manufacturers, importers, packagers and processors) to label and prepare Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for products they make, import, package, or process that meet the hazard criteria set out in the Controlled Product Regulations under the federal Hazardous Products Act.. The buyers of these controlled products must make sure that these products are correctly labelled and that MSDSs are available. Employers must set up worker education programs that instruct workers about the contents and significance of labels and MSDSs and how to work safely with hazardous materials.

In summary, WHMIS delivers the necessary information by means of:-

  • cautionary labels on containers of controlled products
  • the provision of an MSDS for each controlled product
  • a worker education program

The ultimate goal is to create a safer workplace by providing workers with the knowledge and tools to enable them to work safely.