OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
Bookmark this page

Part 29 Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)

Section 397 Training

Worker education for controlled products must be provided as an integral part of the WHMIS information delivery system. Worker education includes all those activities that provide knowledge and skills to workers so that they may work safely with or near controlled products at the workplace. WHMIS requires that a program of instruction be established that not only provides training in specific work procedures, but also information about requirements for labels, MSDSs and information of significance to worker health and safety.

Information and instruction must be provided to all workers who work with or in proximity to a controlled product. A worker who works with a controlled product is any worker who stores, handles, uses or disposes of a controlled product or who immediately supervises another worker performing these duties. “In proximity” is the area in which the worker’s health and safety could be at risk during storage, handling, use or disposal of the product, maintenance operations or in an emergency situation such as a spill or fire. The physical area of risk depends on the quantity of product, its form, the extent of enclosure during its use, scheduling of work activities and persistence of the product after its release.

The employer must:

(1) for each controlled product supplied to the workplace, provide all hazard information received from the supplier and any additional information of which the employer is, or ought to be, aware of concerning the use, storage and handling of the product;

(2) develop and implement a program of worker instruction that includes:

(a) the content required on supplier and work site labels and the purpose and significance of the information contained on them;
(b) the content required on an MSDS and the purpose and significance of the information contained on it;
(c) procedures for the safe use, storage, handling or manufacture of the controlled product;
(d) methods of identification used in the workplace, where applicable;
(e) procedures to be followed where fugitive emissions are present; and
(f) procedures to be followed in an emergency.

Section 8 of the OHS Regulation requires that procedures be in writing and available to workers.

(3) consult with the joint work site health and safety committee (if any) or health and safety representative (if any) during the development, implementation and review of the program. Consultation means meeting for the purpose of seeking information or advice.

An employer is considered to have consulted with the committee regarding the program of WHMIS instruction if two conditions are met. Prior finalizing the program, the committee has the opportunity to review and provide information or advice on the entire program, including its content, structure and means of implementation. Means of implementation consists of choice of instructors and the use of in-course evaluations. Secondly, once the program has been implemented, the employer asks for information and advice from the committee on the effectiveness of the program;

(4) review the program of instruction at least annually, but more frequently if required by a change in work conditions or available hazard information; and

(5) if MSDSs are available at the workplace on a computer system, the employer must train workers in how to use the system and access the information.

The instruction provided by the employer must be site-specific and deal with specific products and procedures used at the workplace. Providing only generic WHMIS education through a training organization does not meet the WHMIS training requirements. (Generic instruction refers to the instruction of workers in WHMIS hazard information without reference to specific products or work sites.) Generic instruction is acceptable when providing information about:
(a) types of content required on MSDSs and labels,
(b) how WHMIS works,
(c) hazards of a group of products that have similar properties,
(d) work procedures for a group of products if the procedures are basically the same for all products in the group,
(e) work procedures that apply to a variety of work sites if the work procedures are basically the same at each site, and
(f) as the preliminary stage of instruction in a larger program.

A product-specific and site-specific training component must still be provided by the employer. The employer must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that the program of instruction results in a worker being able to apply the information needed to protect the worker’s health and safety. This requirement has several implications.

(1) While all workers who work with or near a controlled product are likely to receive the same basis instruction, the content may vary somewhat from worker to worker depending on the type of work the worker does.

(2) Instruction must be integrated into the overall hazard prevention program at the workplace. Procedures training must take into account information available from the label and MSDS, and also the particular circumstances of the workplace. For example, it is not enough to know that the MSDS suggests a particular type of respirator – the worker must know where to obtain it, locations in the plant where its use is mandatory, how to wear it and how to maintain and store it.

(3) The proof of a successful program is the ability of workers to demonstrate safe work procedures with controlled products and the knowledge of why those procedures are required.

Occupational health and safety officers will usually speak with workers and ask four questions to determine the adequacy of their training and to assess compliance with this section:
(1) What are the hazards of the controlled product?
(2) How are you protected from these hazards?
(3) What do you do in case of an emergency?
(4) Where can you get more information?

If a worker can correctly answer these questions regarding the controlled product(s) they use or have contact with, the training program is considered to be adequate and meets the requirements of this section.

For materials exempted under section 395 of the OHS Code, the employer is still required to provide worker education about MSDSs and labels, even though these products are exempt from the MSDS and labelling requirements. These substances were exempted under this section because there are alternative methods for suppliers to provide information to users. This information should be used by employers in place of WHMIS MSDSs and labels for the exempted substances. The employer is considered to be in compliance with the training requirements if the employer has obtained the information available under the alternative legislation and has trained workers in the content, purpose and significance of this information. Workers are responsible for participating in the instruction that the employer provides. In addition, workers should inform the employer in any circumstances where they do not have adequate information about a controlled product to ensure their health and safety.

There is no requirement for workers to be “certified” under WHMIS, nor are workers required to have a card or certificate showing they have received training. The employer may develop his or her own program of instruction to best suit the particular workplace and workers.

For more information
WHMIS Information for Workers
Bulletin CH007
WHMIS Information for Employers
Bulletin CH008