Transitioning from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015 – Global Harmonized System

Transitioning from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015 – Global Harmonized System

August 24, 2016

As many of you know Canada has begun its transition to the new international standards as part of the Global Harmonized System for the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). In order to adopt the GHS system, amendments are being made to the WHMIS legislation. Since 1988, WHMIS has been Canada’s system for communicating hazardous material information to workers in the workplace. The change to the new system began February 1, 2015, and all changes will take place over three phases. The new requirements will be referred to as “WHMIS 2015”, while the old requirements will be referred to as “WHMIS 1988”.

The first phase began in February of 2015, when chemical manufacturers and importers were required to begin phasing in the new material safety data sheets, which will now be referred to simply as SDS – Safety Data Sheets, and labels. Phase 2 began July 1, 2017 and requires suppliers to begin using the new labels and safety data sheets and by phase three June 1, 2018 all suppliers must sell hazardous products that comply with the new WHMIS 2015 requirements. By December 1, 2018 the transition to WHMIS 2015 will be completed, and all employers have to ensure that all inventory, labelling, safety data sheets and training is compliant with WHMIS 2015.

Training Requirements During the Transition:

Since the new WHMIS 2015 has already begun, employers are now required to train their workers in BOTH WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015 until December 1, 2018 where all WHMIS 1988 must be phased out. Since workers may still work with products under the old system, as well as with products under the new system during transition it is important that the training provided teaches them how to read and understand BOTH labelling and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), and the new Safety Data Sheets (SDS), under WHMIS 1988 and WHMIS 2015.

For more information on frequently asked questions about WHMIS 2015, please visit the Ministry of Labour website at: