Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)


The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is a combination of Canadian federal and provincial legislation designed to provide information to help workers and supervisors become familiar with the health and safety associated with certain types of hazardous materials, referred to as "controlled products" in the legislation.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) provides useful information on health and safety in the workplace and, in particular, MSDS and toxicological indices in electronic format.

Elements of WHMIS

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requires that all hazardous materials are labelled, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are provided for all controlled products in use on campus and training is provided. If you are required to work with a controlled product but are uncertain of its hazards or characteristics, request the MSDS from your supervisor, your departmental stores personnel, the Science Library or search the Internet. Chemical suppliers are required to provide MSDS for all hazardous chemical products purchased by U.N.B.


The six classes of controlled products are:

WHMIS: Class A - Compressed Gases

Class A

Compressed Gases

WHMIS: Class B - Flammable and Combustible Materials

Class B

Division 1 - Flammable Gases

Division 2 - Flammable Liquids

Division 3 - Combustible Liquids

Division 4 - Flammable Solids

Division 5 - Flammable Aerosols

Division 6 - Reactive Flammable Materials

WHMIS: Class C - Oxidizing Material

Class C

Oxidizing Material

WHMIS: Class D-1 - Poisonous and Infectious Material

Class D: Division One

Poisonous and Infectious Material:
Materials causing immediate and serious toxic effect

WHMIS: Class D-2 - Poisonous and Infectious Material

Class D: Division Two

Poisonous and Infectious Material:
Materials causing other toxic effects

WHMIS: Class D-3 - Poisonous and Infectious Materials

Class D: Division Three

Poisonous and Infectious Material:
Biohazardous Infectious Material

WHMIS: Class E - Corrosive Material

Class E

Corrosive Material

WHMIS: Class F - Dangerously Reactive Material

Class F

Dangerously Reactive Material


The following classes of materials are exempt from WHMIS legislation, since they are covered by different legislation:

  • Explosives
  • Radioactive materials
  • Domestic Goods
  • Cosmetics
  • Food
  • Drugs and diagnostic chemicals
  • Pesticides
  • Labels

Any hazardous material, or controlled product, whether in transit, storage or use must be labelled. Two types of labels exist under WHMIS regulations: supplier labels and workplace labels.

The supplier label must include:

  • product identifier
  • supplier identifier
  • reference to the material safety data sheet
  • hazard symbols
  • risk phrases
  • precautionary statements
  • first aid measures

Labels must be provided in the language of the workplace.

Most WHMIS suppliers' labels are recognized by a prescribed hatchmark border.

The workplace label must include:

  • product identifier
  • information on the safe handling of the product
  • reference to the MSDS

Workplace labels are available from the Environmental Health and Safety Office and are required for products:

  • that are produced and used in the workplace
  • received from a supplier and transferred to another container
  • if the supplier label becomes illegible or is accidentally removed.

The following are also required to be labelled:

  • hazardous waste
  • any controlled product contained in a transfer or reaction system such as a piping system process or reaction vessel, tank car or conveyor belt.
  • a mixture, or sample undergoing analysis, test or evaluation in a laboratory.

Laboratory Exemptions

For a controlled product manufactured in a laboratory and intended to be used solely for research and development purposes, no special label is required, provided that:

  • the product is clearly identified
  • the product is not transported outside the lab
  • the material safety data sheet for that product is readily available

Laboratory test samples which will be sent elsewhere, eg. for analysis, require a workplace label affixed to the holding container or tube rack.

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) provide chemical, physical, and toxicological properties of substances as well as information on precautionary and emergency procedures.

The suppler of a controlled product is required to send a copy of that data sheet with the first shipment. The regulations do not require an MSDS to be sent with every shipment or purchase of a controlled product.

Material Safety Data Sheets for controlled products must be updated and replaced every three years or when new information becomes available.

Each University department is responsible to ensure that MSDS are readily accessible at all times. MSDS may be stored as hard copies or in electronic format so long as they are available when needed.


Training is a departmental responsibility. Assistance is available from the Environmental Health and Safety Office in the form of identification of departmental training needs and provision of training materials. (WHMIS) training is required for all employees including faculty, staff and students who have the potential for exposure to hazardous chemicals. Any work in the laboratory using hazardous chemicals meets the definition of the requirement. Training is required before the employee can be assigned work in or around hazardous chemicals.