If you are a citizen of Canada or have any close connection with Canada, you must have got to know the answer to the question of what does WHMIS stand for?
WHMIS is a Canadian system developed in the year 1988. The definition of WHMIS is Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.
This system revolves around the health and safety of the workers working in the various industries and factories of Canada.
The development of this system dates back to the time when several workers lost their lives because of the lack of information about the risk under which they were working and they did not even know what WHMIS stands for.
At that time, the workers were unaware of the chemicals that they were using and the hazards imposed by those chemicals upon them.
Thus, the workers did not take proper precautionary measures which resulted in injuries and sometimes even death. Such carelessness can take away the lives of many.
To prevent such mishappenings, WHMIS was introduced. This system aims at providing proper information to the workers regarding all the hazardous product used in their workplace.
The development of WHMIS brought about a revolutionary change in the industrial sector. The industries have now become federally regulated workplaces.
The safety of the workers is given more priority after the implementation of WHMIS and since the introduction of WHMIS, Canada has prospered a lot in terms of manufacturing products.
The number of accidents through the use of hazardous products was greatly reduced and the system was well-appreciated by the workers.
Implementation of WHMIS:
The implementation of WHMIS is quite necessary and appropriate steps must be taken.
According to WHMIS, the risk imposed by hazardous products can be conveyed to the workers using three methods – using labels, material safety data sheets, or education and training programs.
Other methods like hazard classification and hazard identification are also implemented in the industries. Overall the above methods work towards the all-round development of the workers
1. Workplace Label
The first method of implementation of WHMIS is through the use of workplace labels. Workplace labels include symbols, pictures, or short phrases written on the container of the hazardous product.
By looking at the labels, the workers can get an idea of the hazard associated with the use of the hazardous product, and the safety precautions that must be taken to be on the safer side.
The labels also contain information on how the products should be handled and stored. For example, flammable and combustible materials must be kept away from fire or its sources, and oxidizing materials must not be kept in the open air otherwise rust formation may take place, etc.
If not kept in the desired manner, such hazardous products can cause severe damage to the industry as well as its workers.
Nowadays, a wide variety of labels in the form of symbols and sentences are used to denote the type of chemical used in the industries.
For instance, there are separate labels or symbols used for oxidizing materials, compressed gases, and flammable and combustible materials.
Hence the labels present in the containers of hazardous products serve to protect the industry from dangerous accidents.
2. Material Safety Data Sheet
A material safety data sheet that provides a list of information about the occupational health and safety measures that must be adopted while using hazardous products.
The list of information included in safety data sheets –
- the properties of the hazardous products,
- the chemical hazards associated with the products,
- instructions regarding the safe use,
- handling, and disposal of hazardous materials,
- and the first aid measures that must be taken if a worker or their co-workers are exposed to hazardous materials.
The safety data sheets are an important step towards spreading health and safety information among the workers related to the hazardous products used in the workplace.
3. Worker Education and Training Programs Related to WHMIS
No doubt the labelling of chemical products and the safety data sheets are one of the most effective methods of implementation of WHMIS.
But how will the workers get to know that such systems exist to guide them about chemical safety and appropriate control measures to be taken in case of exposure?
To create awareness among the workers about the necessity of knowing all about the hazardous products used in the workplace, it is necessary to conduct workplace-specific training programs to train workers about the same.
Under these education programs, workers are given proper training for the handling, storage, and disposal of hazardous products that can cause damage to the workplace.
WHMIS training program also includes information such as how to read the labels present in the containers of hazardous products and how to read the safety data sheets.
The main purpose of the WHMIS education and training program is to make sure that all the employees in the workplace are aware of the hazards associated with the chemical products they are using and can instantly take appropriate safety measures to protect themselves as well as their co-workers if are overexposed to these chemicals.
However, learning everything instantly is not possible. The health and safety training for WHIMS education should be repeated at frequent intervals so that the employees can brush up on their knowledge and also remains updated with everything.
In February 2015, WHMIS collaborated with the Globally Harmonized System. Due to this collaboration, it was renamed WHMIS 2015. Earlier, it was known as WHMIS 1988.
The globally harmonized system, abbreviated as GHS is a standardization of product classification, storage, handling, and disposal.
As a result of the collaboration, there has been improved labelling of products, spreading of data sheets, and well-organized health and safety training programs for the workers.
This improvement has reduced the number of accidents or injuries in the workplace and has increased the manufacturing of products and their distribution to suppliers.
There are certain changes brought about in WHMIS 2015 as compared to WHMIS 1988 –
- The labels or symbols in the containers of hazardous products have been replaced with images and graphics. As pictures are more effective in conveying the same information than words this method makes the approach more effective.
- Earlier, the safety data sheets usually contained 9 pieces of information regarding the product. However, after the introduction of WHMIS 2015, the number of information has increased to 16. With a more detailed explanation of the risks prevalent in the workplace, WHMIS 2015 has brought a drastic reduction in the number of accidents.
Hence, it can be concluded that the introduction and implementation of WHMIS was a necessary step in maintaining the peace and integrity of the industry as well as the country.
Canada has set up a benchmark for other countries as well and industrialists all over the world are working to implement WHMIS in their workplaces.
If you are planning to secure your future in any kind of industry, then you must have a basic knowledge of what WHMIS stands for. This knowledge will help you in excelling in your career.