Written by Steve Stephenson May 16, 2013
The Workplace Hazardous Material Information System (WHMIS) label is used in Canada to mark products and containers to inform people about hazardous materials and provide information so that people can protect themselves from those hazards. WHMIS labels are required by law, and the information to be included on WHMIS labels is specified by law.
Either the material manufacturer, or the importer, must place WHMIS labels on the original containers holding controlled (hazardous) products. Employers are responsible for maintaining the labels and placing WHMIS labels on secondary containers, when those labels are required.
The following categories of information must be provided on supplier applied WHMIS labels:
There is an exception to the above for laboratory samples of controlled products that are less than ten kilograms, or less than 100 ml, if the material is a liquid. In those circumstances WHIMS labels are not required, if there is a label which provides the following in both English and French:
There are two basic types of WHMIS labels: the supplier label and the workplace label.
Suppliers are responsible for labeling hazardous materials. The supplier is usually the manufacturer, but it may be an importer for hazardous materials that enter Canada without WHMIS labels.
Employers are responsible for workplace labeling, and for replacing damaged or mission labels on containers in the workplace. This includes placing WHMIS labels on controlled products, on decanted products (secondary containers), on laboratory chemicals, on piping, and on bulk containers where a controlled product is being held or is flowing.
Note: it is acceptable to label pipes and reaction vessels in other ways such as using color coded pipe markers. However, workers must be trained to recognize and understand those labels.
There are no rules about the physical form of WHMIS labels. They may be a mark, sign, stamp, sticker, seal, ticket, tag or wrapper. The "label" may be attached, imprinted, stenciled or embossed on the controlled product or its container. The most common WHMIS labels are adhesive-backed vinyl labels.
A supplier label must:
If material marked with a supplier label is placed into a secondary container, in most cases that container must be labeled with a workplace WHMIS label. A workplace label:
These are the minimum requirements for workplace labels. Employers may include more information on the labels, but they are not required to do so. Labels prepared in the workplace are not required to have hatched borders.
For example, section 10.41 on "Replacing Labels" in the Canada Occupational Safety and Health Regulations states:
"Where, in a work place, a label applied to a controlled product or a container of a controlled product becomes illegible or is removed from the controlled product or the container, the employer shall replace the label with a work place label that discloses the following information in respect of the controlled product
(a) the product identifier;
(b) the hazard information; and
(c) a statement indicating that a material safety data sheet is available in the work place."
When a controlled product is moved into containers for resale or delivery outside of your workplace, you must put a supplier label on the containers. When a bulk material is used within your workplace, and it is transferred to other (usually smaller) containers, only a workplace label is required on those containers.
There are two exceptions to the workplace labeling requirements:
Supplier labels must include hazard symbols that visually show the classification of the hazardous material. There are eight classifications. These are represented by standard symbols. These are: