WHMIS (2015)

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) (2015) provides health and safety information about many hazardous materials that are used in the workplace, which are called controlled products, through a combination of warning labels, hazard symbols, safety data sheeets (SDS) and training. Under WHMIS, workers have the right to receive information about each controlled product they use (identity, hazards, safety precautions). 

Compliance with WorkSafeBC, WHMIS and related legislation are the minimum standards acceptable for working at VCH Research Institute, VGH Site.

It is MANDATORY to obtain WHMIS training prior to working in a lab if one or more of the following applies:

  • exposure to hazardous products due to your work
  • use, store, handle or dispose of a hazardous product
  • supervise or manage other workers who may be exposed or use, store, handle or dispose of a hazardous product

If you have taken the UBC Chemical Safety Course it will cover WHMIS and separate training is not required.  However, if you do not need to take the UBC Chemical Safety Course it is mandatory that you take the UBC WHMIS e-course. All VCH Research Institute employees and affiliates are encouraged to exceed these minimum legal standards. All possible preventive measures are taken to eliminate accidental injuries, occupational diseases and risks to personal security. To get started on the e-course, either read the information below and/or watch the WHMIS video and then complete the UBC course. 

WHMIS at work

Responsibilities of the employer and employees identified by WHMIS legislation are as follows:


  • Provide up-to-date SDS (not more than three years old) for all controlled products they sell or produce.
  • Provide supplier labels on all containers of controlled products they sell or produce.


  • Know exactly what hazardous products are present, and how they are used, handled, or stored in the workplace
  • Keep and maintain accurate records about the identity and amount of hazardous products
  • Identify the hazards associated with the use, storage, handling, and disposal of the hazardous products
  • Ensure that WHMIS requirements regarding labels and safety data sheets (SDS) are met
  • Provide workers with easy access to information, including SDS
  • Develop compliant WHMIS labels and SDS for hazardous products produced for use in the work place
  • Educate and train workers who may be exposed
  • Develop procedures for
    • Safe use, handling, storage and disposal of a hazardous product
    • How to protect workers who may be exposed
    • What must be done in an emergency or spill that involves the hazardous product
  • Ensure that all containers of controlled products in their workplace have SDS and WHMIS labels (supplier labels, workplace labels, or other acceptable means of identification as appropriate).


  • Know and understand the information on labels and MSDS.
  • Use the information they receive through education and training to handle controlled products safely.
  • Inform employers if labels are illegible or missing.

WorkSafeBC Staff:

  • Administer WHMIS legislation.
  • Provide general information about WHMIS to employers and workers.
  • Ensure compliance with both federal and provincial WHMIS legislation.
What is WHMIS

WHMIS informs workers about hazards and injuries that can occur if controlled products are not used or stored properly. WHMIS also helps reduce workplace injury and disease by communicating specific health and safety information about the controlled products to reduce exposure to hazardous materials.

There are nine pictograms and the hazard class it may represent.  Each symbol identifies the specific class/category of the controlled product. Once a controlled product has been classified, the following three WHMIS elements are used to communicate health and safety information:

  • WHMIS Labels - A WHMIS product label will alert you to the hazard and risk associated with using WHMIS controlled products and the precautionary measures you will need to follow. The WHMIS label will inform you where you can obtain more information on the product, i.e. the Safety Data Sheet (SDS).
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDS) - SDS are technical bulletins that provide detailed hazard and precautionary information, safe handling, and emergency procedures for the product. Be aware of where the SDS sheets are kept in your lab for the products you use. SDS need to be updated every three years.
  • WHMIS Education and Training Programs - VCH Research Institute provides education and training for workers so they can work safely using controlled products. Workers are required to know how WHMIS works, the hazards of controlled products, and the safe work procedures that must be followed.

Hazardous Material Information

Chemical Inventory - An annual inventory of hazardous materials must be completed to identify all hazardous substances and their quantities at the workplace. A chemical inventory includes the chemical name and formula of the material, the size of its container and the primary WHMIS hazard class. Annual inventories allow for the following:

  • To check ethers and other chemicals with limited shelf life.
  • To remove surplus hazardous chemicals.
  • To remove chemicals that you will not use, or have not used in the past 1-3 years.
  • To correct incompatible storage.
  • To identify which chemicals are present.

Chemical Waste Procedures:  VCH Research Institute has a secured chemical waste storage room located in the Jack Bell Research Centre. This room is available to all research groups within VCH Research.

Radiation Waste: VCH Research Institute has a radiation decay room available to our research groups. Please contact Payman Hojabrpour or Dr. Duronio for procedure(s) and access to this room.

Gas Cylinders: All full and empty gas cylinders (e.g. carbon dioxide, O2) must be properly secured at all times. Ask your PI or Lab Supervisor where your lab's full and empty tanks are stored. Each lab is responsible for ordering their own tanks. Be sure to rip off the 'full' label once cylinders are empty.

WHMIS: The WHMIS course is mandatory for all new staff and students working at VCH Research Institute research sites. There is a quiz at the end of this section and a copy will be sent to your supervisor.

Pictogram, Classes and Categories

Pictograms are images that immediately show you what tyype of hazard is present.  Pictograms have a distinct red square standing on its edge with a symbol representing the potential hazard.  Dome products may have multiple pictograms representing multiple hazard types.  

Gas Cylinder
     Gas Under Pressure
     In Contact with Water, Emits Flammable Gases
     Organic Peroxide
Flame Over Circle
Skull and Crossbones     
     Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)
Exclamation Mark 
     Irritation (skin or eyes)
     Skin Sensitization
     Acute Toxicity (harmful)
     Specific Target Organ Toxicity - Single Exposure (drowsiness or dizziness, or      respiratory irritation)
     Biohazardous Infectious Materials 
     Serious Eye Damage
     Skin Corrosion
     Corrosive to Metals 
Exploding Bomb
     Self-Reactive (severe)
     Organic Peroxide (severe) 
Health Hazard 
     Respiratory Sensitization
     Reproductive Toxicity
     Specific Target Organ Toxicity
     Germ Cell Mutagenicity
     Aspiration Hazard


WHMIS Labels


Suppliers Labels

WHMIS requires supplier labels be placed on containers of all controlled products sold for use in the workplace. All suppliers who sell controlled products must produce a 'supplier label' for each product.

Workplace Labels

Workplace labels are required on the following:

  • Containers where the supplier label is missing or not readable
  • Containers for each controlled product produced and used on-site
  • Secondary containers after a product has been transferred from the original container

These are the five types of information required on a workplace label:

  • Product identifier (name) 
  • Date Made
  • Safe handling information
  • Identify hazard pictogram
  • Reference to SDS and if the supplier produced an SDS for the product

Small label template       Medium label template       Large label template

How to design the label is fairly flexible. Here are some examples:

  • Information can be written directly on the container using permanent marker
  • Hazard symbols
  • Information can be written in the language of choice to fit the specific workplace

Other Means of Identification

In some circumstances where workplace labels are impractical, employers may use other means of identification such as warning signs, symbols, placards, and coding systems, i.e., colours, numbers, or letters. These can be used as long as the identifications system is communicated effectively and understood by the workers.

These other means of identification can be used when the product is:

  • used in a laboratory, i.e., in transfer containers such as beakers and flasks.
  • transferred by the worker into a container for use during the same shift if that worker maintains control of the new container and finishes use in that shift.
  • contained in a transfer or reaction system such as a pipe, reaction vessel, tank car, or conveyor belt.
  • identified as hazardous waste produced in the workplace.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

What is a SDS?

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are summary documents that provide information about the hazards of a product and advice about safety precautions.  SDSs are usually written by themanufacturer or supplier of the product.  In some circumstances, an employer may be required to prepare an SDS (eg, when the product is produced and used exclusively in that workplace).

SDSs provide more detailed hazard information about the product than the label.  They are an important resource for workplaces and workers to help you learn more about the product(s) used.  Use this information to identify the hazards of the products you use and to protect yourself from those hazards, including safe handling and emergency measures.
SDSs tell users what the hazards of the product are, how to use the product safely, what to expect if the recommendations are not followed, how to recognize symptoms of exposure, and what to do if emergencies occur.

What information is on the SDS?

  1. Product Identification
  2. Hazard Identification
  3. Composition / Information on ingredients
  4. First -aid measures
  5. Fire fighting measures
  6. Accidental release measures
  7. Handling and storage
  8. Exposure controls / Personal protection
  9. Physical and chemical properties
  10. Stability and reactivity
  11. Toxicological information
  12. Ecological information
  13. Disposal considerations
  14. Transport information
  15. Regulatory information
  16. Other information

Glossary of Common Terms used in SDSs

Click here to view the Canadian Centre for Occupation Health and Safety's database of Glossary of Common Terms used in SDS. 

SDS Database - Occupational Health & Safety Agency for Healthcare in British Columbia


UBC pays an annual subscription for all UBC employees to access the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety - SDS plus CHEMINFO Search. Please note you MUST use a UBC e-mail address to sign on.