Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) Training

The Ontario Health and Safety Act and its regulations (OHSA) require workplaces to comply with Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements in relation to all workers (this definition includes midwives and administrators). According to the OHSA, “workplace” means anywhere that a worker works. For midwives, that includes in clinic, clients’ homes and in hospitals or birth centres.

It is the responsibility of practice partners to ensure that all staff are trained in WHMIS. WHMIS training must be both general and site-specific. General training covers topics such as labels, Safety Data Sheets (SDS) (formerly Material Safety Data Sheets, or MSDS), controlled products and symbols. Site-specific training includes topics such as how to work safely with controlled products found in your specific workplace. WHMIS education and training may be provided by the practice group, or by someone the practice has selected.

Practice groups must abide by WHMIS and ensure the following:

  • Hazardous materials are properly labeled and identified as such. A hazardous material is a biological or chemical agent named or described in the regulations as a hazardous material (e.g., cleaning products, printer toner).
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are readily available and accessible in the workplace (e.g., in a binder in a common room).
  • Workers who may handle or be exposed to hazardous materials are provided with information about the label, SDS and safe handling practices for each hazardous material they encounter in the workplace.

The last item could be completed through a comprehensive WHMIS course, or simply by reviewing all applicable Safety Data Sheets with workers who are exposed to hazardous materials or conditions. Practice groups are not required by law to conduct any specific WHMIS course, but may choose to do so if they wish.

Note: Midwives and administrators should be aware that certain companies promote their WHMIS training products as though they are compulsory. Some companies use high pressure or aggressive sales tactics and give the impression that they represent the government, or that their training is required or endorsed by a government agency. They may make threats that not purchasing their training will result in a visit by a health and safety officer. In fact, these training providers are not sanctioned by or affiliated with occupational health and safety authorities in Canada.

Additional Resources

Canada’s National WHMIS Portal – This resource provides up-to-date information about changing WHMIS workplace requirements across every jurisdiction, as well as access to useful links, including FAQs, legislation, fact sheets and more.

WHMIS Guide – A comprehensive guide to WHMIS legislation, with a breakdown of its main elements.

WHMIS 2015 for Workers Course – This course is produced by Health Canada and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and provides worker education for WHMIS 2015. There is an exam and learner certificate. The course is available for a small fee ($15).

WHMIS 2015 Fact Sheets – Set of nine fact sheets containing an overview of WHMIS 2015, as well as useful (M)SDSs, labels, pictograms, hazard classes and more. They are available for free in PDF format and can be used for educational purposes within the workplace.