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Guidance for employers during transition to WHMIS 2015

Amendments to the federal Hazardous Products Act and Hazardous Products Regulations requirements for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information Systems (WHMIS) are now in effect. The amendments, referred to as WHMIS 2015, reflect the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). 

To ensure consistency of WHMIS across Canada, provincial and territorial jurisdictions responsible for occupational health and safety legislation have agreed to implement the necessary changes to their respective legislation as soon as practical. Where provincial or territorial jurisdictions are unable to bring the required legislative amendments into force on February 11, 2015, the transition to WHMIS 2015 will be implemented through temporary measures until the necessary amendments are put in place. 

Transition will take effect in three phases:

  • Phase One – Suppliers and employers will be able to comply with either the 1988 or the 2015 requirements (February 11, 2015 to June 2017)
  • Phase Two and Three – Labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) from WHMIS 1988 are gradually phased out, starting at the top of the supply chain (manufacturers and importers), working through to distributors and eventual full compliance with WHMIS 2015 at the workplace level (June 2017 to December 2018). 

This transitional approach is guided by five principles and any temporary measures necessary in provincial or territorial jurisdictions will be applied to ensure employee health and safety. The five principles are:

  • Primacy of occupational health and safety – Protecting employees from the adverse effects from exposure to hazardous materials.
  • Collaboration – The federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions and Health Canada work collaboratively during the transition period.
  • Consistency – Jurisdictions will make every effort to ensure consistency across Canada, both in the wording of amended legislation and its implementation during the transition period.
  • Clarity – Health Canada will provide jurisdictions with clear and timely information on the new requirements and WHMIS jurisdictions will clearly communicate the common transition approach to stakeholders.
  • Flexibility – A transitional approach will allow suppliers and employers a broader timeframe to adjust and comply with the WHMIS 2015 requirements.

In New Brunswick 

New Brunswick has begun the process to amend the required legislation and regulation to reflect the WHMIS 2015 requirements. Additional amendments will also be included to address the legislative style and language that have contributed to enforcement issues, as well as to provide consideration for new technologies now available for hazard communication. The amendments will also include provisions for the transition period from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015. However, the process will not be complete by February 2015 and workplaces may receive products with labels and SDSs that are produced according to the new WHMIS 2015 provisions. 

Employees will be permitted to use those products until the legislation/regulation is amended, under these conditions:

  1. When an employer receives products with both WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs, employees may use the products if they have received instruction and training in at least WHMIS 1988 provisions.
  2. When an employer receives products with only WHMIS 2015 labels and SDSs, employees may use the products as long as the employer complies with Sections 58-69 (Hazardous Substances) of the General Regulation 91-191

Option 2 provides that until the regulation is amended, products that meet the definition of ‘hazardous products’ under the HPR will be considered a ‘hazardous substance’* under the General Regulation 91-191. They would therefore be subject to the requirements of Section 58 to 69 of the regulation, which include:

  1. Designating employee(s) responsible for the proper handling and storage of hazardous substances (S. 58).
  2. Providing training and information on the identity, nature and potential hazards as well as the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of the substance (S. 59).
  3. Containers used for hazardous substances are clearly labelled to identify the substance and provide information on its safe handling, and that the precautions necessary for the safe handling, use, storage and disposal of the substance are available on the container or separate information sheet (S. 60, 61).
  4. Substances stored to protect the health and safety of employees, using information available on a (material) safety data sheet or obtained from the supplier (S. 66).
  5. Other provisions could apply depending on the circumstances. 

Information to help with the transition from WHMIS 1988 to WHIMS 2015 is available for suppliers, distributors, employers and employees through and Additional information and resources will be added throughout the transition period. 

Questions on this and other topics can be submitted to Compliance and Regulatory Review at 

For media inquiries, contact the Communications Department 506 632-2223 or


*    “hazardous substance” means a substance that may, because of its harmful nature, cause injury or damage to the health or safety of a person exposed to it.

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