Who Enforces WHMIS Legislation in Ontario?

In North America, there are currently more than 500,000 substances used in manufacturing, processing and industry, of which at least 25,000 are known to be toxic. Furthermore, at least 800 new chemicals are approved and introduced each year. Chemical products and combinations of chemical agents when not handled, stored, and used properly can cause injury, illness and even death.

WHMIS is implemented by federal and provincial/territorial legislation and regulations. The main purpose of the federal WHMIS legislation is to require suppliers of hazardous products intended for use, handling or storage in a workplace to classify those products and provide health and safety information about these products to their customers.

The main purpose of the provincial WHMIS legislation is to require employers to obtain health and safety information about hazardous products from their suppliers, and to use that information to train their workers. In Ontario, the Ministry of Labour is responsible for the enforcement of both the federal and provincial Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) legislation.

Provincial requirements for WHMIS can be found within:

  • 1.The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) generally requires employers to ensure hazardous products are identified, to obtain safety data sheets and make them available in the workplace and to provide instruction and training to workers. Ontario’s WHMIS legislation applies to all workplaces covered by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, with the exception of farms.
  • 2.The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System Regulation (R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 860) sets out in detail the employer’s duties respecting labels and safety data sheets for hazardous products and prescribes the content and delivery of worker education programs such as those provided at First For Safety.

To understand the Federal legislation for WHMIS and how it is regulated by Health Canada, you can take a further look here:

  1. The Hazardous Products Act (HPA) requires a supplier who sells or imports a hazardous product intended for use, handling or storage in a workplace in Canada to provide a label and safety data sheet to the purchaser of the product.
  • 2.The Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) set out the criteria a supplier must use to assess and classify a product into prescribed hazard classes and categories (e.g. flammable liquid, skin irritant, etc.); and, set out in detail the information a supplier is required to put on a label and a safety data sheet.
  1. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Act (HMIRA) provides for the protection of confidential business information and defines the type of information that a supplier or employer may claim an exemption from disclosing on a label or safety data sheet. It assigns to Health Canada the responsibility for determining if a claim for exemption from disclosing confidential business information is valid.
  2. The Hazardous Materials Information Review Regulations (HMIRR) set out the criteria that Health Canada must use when assessing the validity of a claim for exemption, and also set out the information that must be contained in a claim for exemption from disclosing confidential business information.

As you many know, under the WHMIS 2015, there have been some key changes to the federal legislation (which affects us provincially as well), based on the alignment with the Globally Harmonized System.

Key changes to the WHMIS 2015 federal legislation includes:

  • Controlled Products are now called Hazardous Products.
  • New rules and criteria for classifying hazardous chemicals improve the supplier’s ability to indicate the severity of hazards.
  • There are different hazard classes/categories and more of them.
  • Supplier label requirements include new pictograms for hazard classes and prescribed hazard statements and signal words.
  • Safety data sheets (SDS’s) have a new, standardized 16-section format with prescribed information elements, which is much more information than previous MSDS’s contained
  • SDS’s are required to be updated on an ongoing basis, as new information about a product becomes available. There is no longer a requirement to update a safety data sheet every three years but rather on an ongoing basis as prescribed by the individual workplace.

We invite you to book a private WHMIS 2015 on-site course for your employees. Annual refresher training is recommended, or anytime there is a new chemical product introduced into the workplace. Please call our training coordinator for more information!


Ministry of Labour. The WHMIS Legislation. Article retrieved online on November 16, 2017: https://www.ontario.ca/document/workplace-hazardous-materials-information-system-guide-legislation/whmis-legislation#section-1


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