J-1  Responsibilities                                                                 

                   J-2  Controlled Products                                                          

                   J-3  WHMIS Labels                                                                 

                   J-4  Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)                                            

                   J-5  Education                                                                                             



WHMIS legislation is an addition to and modification of existing occupational health and safety legislation.  For Ontario, it consists of a Federal Bill C‑70 and an Ontario Bill 79 which are complementary.  These bills came into force on October 31, 1988 with compliance to be completed by January 31, 1989.  All of the other provinces and territories have similar legislation so that this is a consistent nationwide program.


WHMIS is also sometimes called "the right to know" since it is a system for providing workers who may be exposed to hazardous physical or chemical situations with immediate information about these hazards.  There are three key elements in the WHMIS program:  LABELS which indicate potential dangers and basic precautionary information, MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEETS (MSDS) which provide expanded hazard and precautionary information and WORKER EDUCATION which provides training in safe work procedures.  The WHMIS program was designed to deal with the large problem of occupational illness and death.  In Canada, approximately 1000 people die each year because of their jobs and there are hundreds of thousands of injuries.  It is estimated that 25% of workers are exposed to hazardous chemicals and that the social costs of this exposure are $600 million per year.  The goal of WHMIS is to help reduce these costs by mandating the information and training to be made available to workers.  The WHMIS program deals mainly with chemical hazards:  although the legislation also covers physical hazards such as noise, vibration and radiation as well as requirements for inventories of these hazards, the regulations governing these have not yet been published (Feb. 1991).



The employer is responsible for providing training to workers about WHMIS legislation, labelling requirements and material safety data sheets; this is to be done in conjunction with the JOHSC.  The supervisor must ensure that materials in his area are properly labelled, that Material Safety Data Sheets are readily available and up‑to‑date and that workers are properly trained to handle hazardous materials safely.  Workers are required to participate effectively in training programs and to use the information they receive to protect their own health and safety and that of their co‑workers.



The legislation deals mainly with what are called CONTROLLED PRODUCTS and their use, storage and disposal at places of employment.  The six classes of Controlled Products are outlined below with their corresponding HAZARD SYMBOLS.




                        CLASS A -     COMPRESSED GASES

                        Substances that are gaseous at room temperature and are kept under pressure.



                        Solids, liquids or gases that will ignite and continue to burn if exposed to a flame.


                        CLASS C -      OXIDIZING MATERIAL

                        Materials that promote combustion in other substances.




                        1.  Materials causing immediate and serious toxic effects.

                        2.  Materials causing other toxic effects (chronic, eg. cancer).

                        3.  Biohazardous and infectious material.


                        CLASS E -      CORROSIVE MATERIAL

                        Substances that will erode steel or aluminium or destroy animal tissues.


                        CLASS F -      DANGEROUSLY REACTIVE MATERIAL

Material that reacts with water to produce dangerous gases or will react when heated, pressurized or agitated.


There is also a list of 1736 chemicals (Canada Gazette Part II, Vol. 122, No.2) called the INGREDIENTS DISCLOSURE LIST.  Any of these chemicals present in a product above the specified concentration (generally 1% or 0.1%) must be included on the MSDS. If the mixture is untested, then it will be assigned the classification of the tested ingredient.  Any ingredient with unknown toxicity must also be listed on an MSDS.


Controlled Product Exemptions

The following products which might otherwise fit these controlled products requirements are exempt from WHMIS requirements because they are governed by other laws:

            ‑‑ explosives as defined in the EXPLOSIVES ACT

            ‑‑ cosmetics, drugs or food described in the FOOD AND DRUG ACT

            ‑‑ radioactive materials under the ATOMIC ENERGY CONTROL ACT

            ‑‑ pesticides as defined in the PEST CONTROL PRODUCTS ACT

            ‑‑ products packaged as consumer products in quantities normally used by the consuming public.


An MSDS is not required for such products and the labels required by their controlling legislation are accepted as WHMIS labels.  The requirements for worker education still apply.  In the second phase of WHMIS some of these exemptions may be removed In addition, WHMIS labels and MSDSs are not required for:

            ‑‑ wood or wood products

            ‑‑ tobacco or tobacco products

            ‑‑ manufactured articles (their use depends on physical form rather than chemical content)

-‑ hazardous materials in transit (covered under the TRANSPORTATION OF DANGEROUS GOODS ACT)

‑‑ hazardous wastes (although they must be properly identified, stored and handled‑‑including employee education).


In order to determine if a material is a "controlled product", follow the outline in Figure 1 and consult the Controlled Product Regulations for detailed criteria of classification.


The SUPPLIER has the fundamental responsibility for the classification of products.  If no toxicological information is available for a product, the supplier must undertake testing to develop such information. The EMPLOYER is responsible for the classification of any product produced in the workplace or which is directly imported from a source outside of Canada.  If a WORKER finds an improperly labelled material in the workplace he must bring this to the attention of the employer.

Figure 1




Prepare and assemble physical and

toxicological data on the product



Does the product meet classification

criteria for any WHMIS class:

A, B, C, D, E, or F?




                      NO                                                                                                                    YES



Product is not a controlled product                                                  Is the product being handled, offered for

subject to WHMIS requirements                                                                      transport or transported?




                      NO                                                                                                                    YES



Is the product a:                                                                                   TDG information requirements may apply.

-- restricted product packaged for                                                     (WHMIS requirements apply at time of sale

   consumer use                                                                                    and on receipt of the product at the

-- explosive                                                                                            workplace.)                                                           

-- cosmetic, drug, food, or device

-- pest control product

-- radioactive prescribed substance?



                      NO                                                                                                                    YES



Is the product:                                                                                      Product is subject to model OSH

-- wood or product made of wood                                                     requirements except those related to material

-- a manufactured article                                                                     safety data sheets and supplier labels.

-- tobacco or product made of tobacco?



                      NO                                                                                                                    YES



Is the product a hazardous waste?                                                   Product is not subject to an information

                                                                                                                requirements under WHMIS.



                      NO                                                                                                                    YES



Product is subject to all applicable supplier                                    Product is subject only to model OHS

information requirements and those under                                      requirements for safe storage and handling

model OSH.                                                                                           through identification and education.





A WHMIS label is a source of information applied to a "controlled product" which is designed to alert employers and workers to the potential hazards of the product and the precautions to be taken with it.  The physical form of the label is left open (label, stencil, tag, etc.) but the information content is specified for the various labelling situations. 


There are a number of different labelling requirements depending on source of material, quantity and how it is to be used.  Suppliers may, if they wish, include more information than is required by WHMIS.  The different types of labels are outlined below and the information required on each type of label is listed in Table 1.



SUPPLIER LABEL:  A supplier is a person who manufactures, processes, imports, packages or sells a "controlled product" (but not a laboratory supply house).  The supplier is responsible for creating or obtaining acceptable WHMIS labels for these "controlled products". 

LABORATORY SUPPLY HOUSE LABEL:  A supplier of materials for laboratory use.  The label will usually specify "intended for laboratory use only".

WORKPLACE LABELS:  Labels for materials that are decanted from larger containers for use.

LABORATORY SAMPLE LABEL:  A laboratory sample is less than ten kilograms of a non‑commercial sample of a controlled product supplied solely for use for analysis, research and development, etc. in a laboratory.  Such a label must be supplied with samples submitted to Departmental instrument facilities for analysis.  This category does not include any sample which is to be used for testing other materials, for educational or demonstration purposes or for marketing.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT SAMPLE LABEL:  Materials which are produced in research laboratories and are not to be removed from that laboratory.  Any system of identification is acceptable provided that workers in the area understand the system and know how to obtain access to further information.

OTHER MEANS OF IDENTIFICATION:  In a number of circumstances, normal WHMIS labels are not required.  1. Products not in containers (eg. a pile of road salt) should have a visible identifying placard containing the information required on a workplace label.  2.  Products in large reaction vessels, tank cars or trucks, conveyors of piping systems must have a placard, stencil, special color, etc. which in conjunction with worker education serves as a means of identification. 



See Table 1 for an outline of information required for the various WHMIS labels.  See also Figure 2 for the layout of a Supplier Label.

LANGUAGE:  The label must be in English and French.

LAYOUT AND BORDERS:  A special WHMIS border is required for products in any size from "suppliers" and if more than 10 kg from a  "laboratory supply house".  The corners of the border must be square and hatch marks must have the parallelogram shape shown in Figure 2. Information not required by WHMIS, which is to appear on the label, must be kept outside the border.

COLOR:  The content of the label and its border (excluding the hazard symbols) may be of any color which contrasts with the container and other markings on it.  The color of hazard symbols must not conflict or create confusion with those used under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.  Orange must not be used for any WHMIS hazard symbol (reserved for TDG explosives).  TDG uses green on white for non‑flammable, non‑toxic and non‑corrosive compressed gases thus this combination must not be used for WHMIS materials which are flammable, toxic or corrosive.

LEGIBILITY:  The label content must be easily readable and the hazard symbols must be large enough to provide a clear warning.

DURABILITY:  The label should be durable enough to remain attached and legible during the lifetime of the product.

APPLICATION:  The label must be attached to the material in such a way that it is visible when the material is in normal use.

REVISION OF LABELS:  Information on the label must be consistent with the MSDS information.  The label must be revised if any significant new information becomes available (revised labels do not have to be supplied to previous customers).



PRODUCT IDENTIFIER:  The identification of the product should be identical to that on the MSDS and should give the chemical, common, generic, trade or brand name or, if the product is exempted under the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act, a code name or number.

SUPPLIER IDENTIFIER:  The name of the supplier and the city where the principal place of business is located.

MSDS STATEMENT:  This is a reference to the fact that an MSDS is available with wording such as "See Material Safety Data Sheet".

HAZARD SYMBOLS:  These symbols represent each of the classes and sub‑classes of "controlled products".

RISK PHRASES:  See Reference 21 for a list of suggested risk phrases for the various classes of "controlled products".  If a risk phrase adds no information beyond that contained in the hazard symbol and precautionary measures, it need not be used.

PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES:  See Reference 21 for a list of suggested precautionary measures statements describing the essential precautions to be taken in the handling, use and storage of various types of "controlled products".

FIRST AID MEASURES:  A brief description of immediate medical treatment to be given in case of exposure.

SAFE HANDLING INFORMATION:  Brief precautions to be taken for safe                                              handling.

HAZARD STATEMENT AND EMERGENCY TELEPHONE NUMBER:  The statement  required is: "Hazardous Laboratory Sample.  For hazard information or in an emergency call (123)‑456‑7890".  The emergency phone number must be available 24 hours per day.  Labels must be updated if the phone number is changed.








  INFORMATION                        SUPPLIER                      LABORATORY         WORKPLACE     LABORATORY

  REQUIRED                                 LABELS                          SUPPLY HOUSE        LABELS                        SAMPLE                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                  LABELS                                                               LABELS

                                                  <100 mL  >100 mL               <10 kg   >10kg                                                                   <10 kg


 WHMIS Border                          X                 X                                          X

 Product Identifier                       X                 X                        X               X                     X                                       X

 Supplier Identifier                      X                 X                                          X                                                               X

 MSDS Statement1                      X                 X                        X               X                     X

 Hazard Symbols                         X                 X                                          X

 Risk Phrases                                                   X                        X               X

 Precautionary Measures                               X                        X               X

 First Aid Measures                                        X                        X               X

 Safe Handling Information                                                                                                X

 Chemical/Generic ID                                                                                                                                                     X

 Hazard Statement2                                                                                                                                                         X

 Emergency Phone Number2                                                                                                                                         X


1.  For example: "See MSDS for further information".

2.  "Hazardous Laboratory Sample.  For hazard information or in an emergency, call (emergency number)."


Figure 2





The Material Safety Data Sheet is the second major element of the WHMIS program and presents more comprehensive information than the labels on health effects of exposure, hazard evaluation, protective measures and emergency procedures.

The MSDS is not intended to represent all the information needed for safe use of materials.  It is a starting point in the development of worksite instruction materials, written work procedures and worker training.



                        Figure 3




                        Figure 4









1.         Product Information                  -- Product identifier

                                                            -- Product use

                                                            -- Manufacturer's name, street address, city, province, postal code and

                                                            emergency telephone number


2.         Hazardous Ingredients              -- Information required by subparagraphs 13(a)(i) to (iv) or paragraph

                                                            14(a) or the Hazardous Products Act

                                                            -- CAS number

                                                            -- LD50 (species and route)

                                                            -- LC50 (species and route)


3.         Physical Data                            -- Physical state (gas, liquid or solid)

                                                            -- Odour and appearance

                                                            -- Odour threshold

                                                            -- Vapour pressure

                                                            -- Vapour density

                                                            -- Evaporation rate

                                                            -- Boiling point

                                                            -- Freezing point

                                                            -- pH

                                                            -- Specific gravity

                                                            -- Coefficient of water/oil distribution


4.         Fire or Explosion Hazard                      -- Conditions of flammability

                                                            -- Means of extinction

                                                            -- Flashpoint and method of determination

                                                            -- Upper flammable limit (% by volume)

                                                            -- Lower flammable limit (% by volume)

                                                            -- Auto-ignition temperature

                                                            -- Hazardous combustion products

                                                            -- Explosion data -- sensitivity to mechanical impact

                                                            -- Explosion data -- sensitivity to static discharge


5.         Reactivity Data                         -- Condition under which the product is chemically unstable

                                                            -- Name of any substance or class of substance with which the product is incompatible

                                                            -- Conditions of reactivity

                                                            -- Hazardous decomposition products


6.         Toxicological Properties            -- Route of entry, including skin contact, skin absorption, eye contact, inhalation, and ingestion

                                                            -- Effects of acute exposure to product

                                                            -- Effects of chronic exposure to product

                                                            -- Exposure limits

                                                            -- Irritancy of product

                                                            -- Sensitisation to product

                                                            -- Carcinogenicity

                                                            -- Teratogenicity

                                                            -- Reproductive toxicity

                                                            -- Mutagenicity

                                                            -- Name of toxicologically synergistic products


7.         Preventive Measures                 -- Personal protective equipment to be used

                                                            -- Specific engineering controls to be used

                                                            -- Procedures to be followed in case of leak or spill

                                                            -- Waste disposal

                                                            -- Handling procedures and equipment

                                                            -- Storage requirements

                                                            -- special shipping information


8.         First Aid Measures                   -- Specific first aid measures


9.         Preparation Information            -- Name and phone number of group, department or party responsible for preparation of the MSDS

                                                            -- Date of preparation




SUPPLIER:  The supplier must obtain or develop an MSDS for any "controlled product" to be offered for sale.  The information on the MSDS must be current at the time of sale (the date of MSDS preparation must be less than three years previous).  The MSDS must be supplied to the customer in either of the official languages as requested.  The supplier is not required to supply more than one data sheet to a customer for a given product.  The supplier must provide information on the identity of customers for a product and the source of toxicological information to an inspector of the Ministry of Labour.  Any further health information available to the supplier must be provided to medical personnel for the purpose of making a diagnosis or providing emergency medical treatment.


EMPLOYER:  The employer must ensure that an up‑to‑date MSDS is obtained from the supplier when the "controlled product" is first received or update the MSDS himself.  An MSDS must be updated within  90 days of receiving significant new information or at least every three years.  The employer must ensure that MSDSs are readily available to any worker who may be exposed and to health and safety representatives.  The employer must ensure that workers are instructed in the content, purpose and significance of the information contained in an MSDS.  This instruction must ensure that the workers know the procedures for safe handling, use, storage and disposal as well as emergency procedures.  The employer must provide information on "controlled products" to medical personnel for diagnosis or emergency medical treatment.  The employer must consult  with health and safety representatives at least annually with regards to instruction provided to employees about "controlled products".



The MSDS must have at least the following nine categories of information with headings similar to those shown in Figure 3.  For a typical MSDS form see Figure 4.  A brief description of some of these information items is given below.



PRODUCT IDENTIFIER:  Identification of the product by generic, trade, brand, common or chemical name or, if exempted under HMIRA (Hazardous Materials Information Review Act), the code name or code number.  The name must be identical to the name on the product label.  Not required by WHMIS but sometimes included are synonyms, chemical formula and molecular weight.

PRODUCT IDENTIFIER NUMBER:  Four digit numbers for pure chemicals or groups of chemicals of United Nations or North American origin.  The CAS (Chemical Abstracts Service) number may also be given.

PRODUCT USE:  The normal use intended by the manufacturer.  Uses other than that intended may pose new risks to workers.


and/or supplier and location of the principal place of business.  An emergency phone number available 24 hours per day is also given.  If this number changes, the MSDS must be updated.



"CONTROLLED PRODUCTS": materials on the Ingredients Disclosure List with concentration equal to or greater than that specified, materials which the supplier has reason to believe may be harmful or materials which have unknown toxicological properties must be listed.  Concentrations may be by weight, volume or weight/volume but determination of 1% or 0.1% cut‑off limits for substances on the Ingredients Disclosure List must be by weight.  The CAS numbers of ingredients may be given here.


The LD50 or LC50 are measures of acute lethality in test animals.  The figures are dependent on the test species and route of administration.  The LD50 is a weight of substance per unit of body weight administered orally or dermally; the LC50 is the concentration of substance in air or water administered usually over a four hour period.  The weights given are those which will cause death in 50% of the group of test animals.  These values only give a crude indication of possible acute toxicity in humans.



Physical State: Solid, liquid or gas.  This helps to predict the difficulty of containment and response to changes in temperature or pressure.

ODOUR AND APPEARANCE:  The quality (sweet, acrid, etc.), its intensity and any irritating properties are noted here.  The color, texture and particle size for solids and viscosity for liquids will appear here.

ODOUR THRESHOLD:  The lowest airborne concentration that can be smelled (units must be given).  This may provide an indication of warning properties which are good if the threshold is <1/10 of exposure limit, fair if the threshold is 1/10 to 3 times  the exposure limit and poor if the threshold is greater than this.  The warning property of the odour threshold should be used with caution since it may have large individual differences and response is not proportional to concentration.  Some materials will rapidly desensitize the sense of smell (olfactory fatigue).  For example, low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide are very strong smelling but deadly concentrations may not be smelled at all.

VAPOUR PRESSURE:  The pressure exerted by a volatile solid or liquid in a closed container at 20oC (units are mmHg = torr).  This provides an indication of the possibility of hazardous concentrations of a substance being present in the air.  Some solids (eg. iodine or norcamphor) have significant vapour pressures. 

VAPOUR DENSITY:  The weight of a given volume of vapour or gas compared to the weight of an equal volume of air (this is equal to the molecular weight divided by the equivalent weight of air = 29).  If the vapour density is greater than that of air the vapour will tend to accumulate in low areas, remain in tanks, etc. presenting hazards.

EVAPORATION RATE:  The rate of evaporation with respect to that of butyl acetate or other specified substance.  This gives an indication of the potential vapour hazard.

BOILING POINT AND FREEZING POINT:  This may indicate that a low boiling liquid needs to be refrigerated or that a liquid should be kept above its freezing point to avoid rupturing the container.

pH:  This gives an indication of the corrosive qualities of a substance.

SPECIFIC GRAVITY:  The ratio of the weight of a volume of substance to the weight of an equal volume of water.  This will indicate whether a substance will sink or float in water.

COEFFICIENT OF WATER/OIL DISTRIBUTION:  The ratio of distribution of a substance between water and n‑octanol.  A value less than one indicates that a substance dissolves better in oils than water and thus may be more likely to be absorbed by the skin.  A value greater than one indicates better solubility in water and thus the substance might be more likely to be absorbed by the moist mucosal tissue of the eyes, mouth and lungs.

PERCENT VOLATILE (VOLUME) AND SOLUBILITY IN WATER:  These are not required by WHMIS but may be included.



FLAMMABILITY:  Compressed gases which form flammable mixtures with air at a concentration of 13% or less or with a concentration range greater than 12%.  Liquids with a flash point less than 37.8oC (100oF) are called flammable and must be stored in proper cabinets.  Liquids with a flash point between 37.8oC and 93.3oC (200oF) are called combustible.  Flammable solids are 1) liable to cause fire through friction or 2) can be ignited readily and burn vigorously and persistently enough as to present a hazard  or 3) ignite and burn with a rate greater than 0.1 inches per second.  Flammable aerosols and reactive substances which may spontaneously ignite or may ignite in contact with water are also included here.

MEANS OF EXTINCTION:  The type of extinguishing medium to be used in case of fire will be indicated here.  Also included are any special procedures because of reactivity of the substance (eg. calcium carbide, reactive metals and metal hydrides which react  dangerously with water).

FLASHPOINT:  This is the minimum temperature (oC) at which the concentration of vapour from a liquid becomes sufficiently high to ignite in the presence of a source of ignition.  The method of determination must be given (usually "closed‑cup").  The lower the flash point, the greater the possibility of ignition.  The flash point determines whether a substance is termed "flammable" or "combustible".

FLAMMABLE LIMITS:  These are the maximum (UFL) and minimum (LFL) concentrations of a gas or vapour in air which will burn or explode in the presence of a source of ignition.  The larger this range is the greater the hazard.  LFL may determine the degree of ventilation required.

AUTO-IGNITION TEMPERATURE:  This is the minimum temperature at which a substance will spontaneously ignite.  For example, carbon disulfide has an auto‑ignition temperature of 100oC so it can be ignited by hot plates or even steam pipes.  Diethyl ether has been ignited by hot plates.

HAZARDOUS COMBUSTION PRODUCTS:  Hazardous products produced during combustion are identified.  Some examples are chemical asphyxiants such as carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide, irritants or corrosives such as acids and toxic monomers from plastics.

EXPLOSION DATA:  This identifies substances which may explode from a physical impact (eg. azides or acetylides), substances which may be ignited by a static discharge and substances which are sensitive to UV or intense light (eg. perchlorates in a laser beam).



CHEMICAL STABILITY:  Notes substances which will vigorously polymerize or decompose under conditions of shock, vibration, pressure or temperature.

INCOMPATIBILITY:  This identifies substances which may react dangerously producing toxic or corrosive materials or excessive heat or explosion (eg. sodium and water or acids and bases).

REACTIVITY:  This notes special types of reactivity not covered above (eg. monomers which will vigorously polymerize if no inhibitor is present).

HAZARDOUS DECOMPOSITION PRODUCTS:  This lists dangerous products released on aging, heating, oxidation or burning (eg. some ethers and unsaturated hydrocarbons will produce explosive peroxides on aging‑‑this should also be mentioned in Preventive Measures).



ROUTES OF ENTRY:  This gives an indication of the primary routes of entry of substances into the body or areas of localized effect.  For example, corrosives affecting the skin or eyes would be indicated as "skin contact" and "eye contact".  Substances which may be absorbed through the skin and result in overall effects would be indicated as "skin absorption" (eg. phenols, amines, pesticides and alkyl lead compounds).  If a substance may become airborne it would be designated by "inhalation".  If a substance may be introduced from the hands during eating, the indication is "ingestion".  The normal routes of entry indicate the types of controls required.

EFFECTS OF ACUTE EXPOSURE:  States adverse health effects resulting from short‑term exposure (usually less than 24 hours).

EFFECTS OF CHRONIC EXPOSURE:  These are health effects due to repeated long‑term exposure to a substance or from a single exposure that produces effects over a long time.  A substance may be continually concentrated in the body until it produces obvious effects or a substance may produce low, unnoticed levels of damage which accumulate until noticeable symptoms appear.  In this latter case, serious and permanent damage can occur before symptoms are observed.  A substance may have both acute and chronic effects.  For example, acute exposure to carbon monoxide may cause headache, nausea or death while chronic exposure may initiate or exacerbate heart and circulatory system problems.

EXPOSURE LIMITS:  These are the recommended maximum concentrations for exposure to a substance.  Most limits in Canada are taken from the recommendations of the ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists).  Various types of limits are in use:

1.  TLV-TWA (TWAEV):  TLV (Threshold Limit Value) is a copywrite name of the ACGIH.  TWA (Time Weighted Average) refers to repeated exposure over a normal 8 hour day/40 hour work week.  Exposure to this concentration of a substance should not have a noticeable harmful effect on most workers who are repeatedly exposed.  In Canada the term used is TWAEV (Time Weighted Average Exposure Value).

2.  TLV-STEL (STEV):  Short Term Exposure Limit (or Value in Canada).  The maximum concentration of a substance to which a worker can be exposed for a period of 15 minutes, no more than four times per day and with at least one hour between exposures.

3.  TLV-C (CEL):  This is a ceiling concentration value which must not be exceeded at any time and is applied to substances that are irritants or are very fast acting.

IRRITANCY OF PRODUCT:  The capability of the material to cause localized irritation, erythema, burning or swelling at the site of contact.

SENSITIZING CAPABILITY:  A sensitizer (allergen) causes no effect on first contact but repeated exposure (even at very low levels) may cause marked and potentially dangerous reaction of the immune system.  Once sensitized, the worker must be isolated from the sensitizing  material.  Some Isocyanates are very potent sensitizers but a very wide range of materials are capable of causing these effects.

CARCINOGENICITY:  Notes materials suspected of being human carcinogens as in Groups 1 or 2 in the "IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans" or in Sections A1 and A2 of Appendix A of "Threshold Limit Values and Biological Exposure Indicies".

TERATOGENICITY AND EMBRYOTOXICITY:  This is the capability of a substance to harm the fetus at a concentration which does not obviously harm the mother.  During the organ differentiation stage of growth (two to eight weeks after conception) the embryo is particularly susceptible to damage.  Injuries may include fetal death, physical malformation, permanent metabolic or physical dysfunction, growth retardation or psychological/behavioural alteration.  For example thalidomide, a tranquilizing drug once prescribed for pregnant women, caused children to be born with grossly deformed or missing limbs.

REPRODUCTIVE TOXICITY:  This refers to substances that cause adverse effects on reproductive ability (including sterility).  Exposure at about 1 ppm to 1,2‑dibromo‑3‑chloropropane, a compound developed as an agricultural chemical to kill soil worms called nematodes, quickly caused permanent sterility in men who worked with it.

MUTAGENICITY:  This refers to substances capable of causing mutations in the genetic material of living cells.  Mutations in reproductive (germ) cells may cause defects in offspring.  Mutations to non‑reproductive cells may be associated with increased risk of cancer.

SYNERGISTIC MATERIALS:  These are substances which interact with the material to produce effects which are greater than the sum of the effects of the materials acting separately.  For example asbestos exposure combined with tobacco smoking produces an effect at least ten times  greater than the sum of the separate effects.



PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT:  If gloves are specified, the proper type of glove material should also be indicated.  The proper type of respirator and cartridge should be listed.  The type of eye protection and any other clothing or footwear required should be  indicated.

ENGINEERING CONTROLS:  Information on ventilation, process equipment design or enclosure, etc. would be included here.

LEAK AND SPILL PROCEDURE:  In the event of a leak or spill, the procedures and materials required to clean up safely while protecting workers is given.

WASTE DISPOSAL:  Any specific waste disposal requirements should be listed here.  There will usually also be a warning to obey all local regulations.

HANDLING PROCEDURES AND EQUIPMENT:  Any special handling procedures would be listed here.  For example, "use under inert atmosphere" (for air sensitive materials) or "do not allow to become dry" (for picric acid).

STORAGE REQUIREMENTS:  Special storage requirements such as temperature, separation from incompatible materials or sources of ignition (eg. store picric acid under water).

SPECIAL SHIPPING INFORMATION:  Safe shipping information; warning of sensitivity to temperature, shock, etc.



These are steps to be taken for immediate treatment of an exposed person.  The type of treatment will depend on the degree of exposure and route of entry.  Some training of workers may be required.  Space limitations on the MSDS may require that more complete written procedures be developed in the workplace.



This is the identity of the person(s) responsible for preparing the MSDS and its date of preparation (since it must be updated at least every three years).  An acceptable format for an MSDS is shown in Figure 6.  All information items in an MSDS must be completed.  If there is no information for a particular item, the data sheet must indicate this with the words "not available" or "not applicable" or their abbreviations "n.av." and "n.ap".  The abbreviation "n.a." is not acceptable.  Units of measurement must be given.  Information should be as specific as possible; for example, if the use of gloves is recommended, the type of glove material should be specfied.  If there is conflicting toxicological information, it should all be presented and it must not be suggested that there is no hazard.  The information in an MSDS may not be disclaimed in order to diminish the responsibility of the supplier to provide accurate information.



The third major element of the WHMIS system is education of the worker.  Included within this of course is the educational material on the labels and MSDS; workers must be taught to understand the content as well as the significance of that content.  Besides this training, WHMIS requires that workers be trained in specific work procedures which are appropriate for their jobs.


The employer is responsible for providing the information on labels and MSDS and any further specific training required regarding the safe use, handling, storage, disposal and emergency procedures involving "controlled products".  He must ensure that the workers are sufficiently trained to be able to apply the information to effectively protect the health and safety of themselves and any others in the vicinity.  The proof of a successful program is the ability of workers to demonstrate safe procedures and the knowledge of why those procedures are required.  A Ministry of Labour inspector could ask questions of workers to test this effectiveness.  In conjunction with health and safety representatives, the instructional program must be reviewed annually or more frequently if there are changes in work procedures.

The worker is required to receive, learn and apply the instruction.  The worker must also inform the employer of any circumstances where he does not have sufficient training to ensure health and safety.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT:   The Figures used in the WHMIS section are derived from Reference 21 and are used with permission of the Workers Compensation Board of British Columbia.