What Does WHMIS Stand For?

WHMIS is something every worker should know about. It refers to the worker's right to know concerning any hazardous substances the worker might be exposed to or might work with as part of their job. According to WHMIS, each worker needs to have the right kind of information and training in order for them to fully understand on the risks of being near the substance as well as how to take proper action to protect the individual from the substance. What does WHMIS mean? It stands for the worker's right to know.

What Does WHMIS Stand For?

The term WHMIS means "Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System". It is a system that provides safety and health information for using or working with hazardous products safely for workers in Canadian workplaces. WHMIS is a part of the world-renowned hazard communications system which is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. There are many benefits with aligning with the GHS. These include the following:

  • Any new hazard classifications are identified.
  • There are hazard classification criteria that are more comprehensive than the WHMIS, which helps improve the workplaces' abilities to identify severe hazards.
  • There is standardization of language regarding precautionary statements and hazards.
  • Any physical hazard criteria go along with the TDG regulations (the Transport of Dangerous Goods).
  • ŸThere is a standardized SDS (Safety Data Sheet) format along with more comprehensive requirements.

There are some more facts of WHMIs you will want to know including:

  • There 6 classes of controlled products that are covered in WHMIS.
  • Three main elements of WHMIS are Worker Education, MSDSs, and Labels
  • The MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) is provided by the manufacturer or supplier. And the workplace labels are provided by the employer.

How About the Training of WHMIS?

Now that you know the answer to "what does WHMIS stand for", a further query can be the training of WHMIS. All workers who work near a WHMIS product needs to be trained along with emergency personnel and people who manage workers who deal with these products.There are two different types of training, including:

  • ŸThere is general WHMIS orientation, which is an overview of the primary concepts one needs to understand to work with these materials.
  • There is workplace specific WHMIS training that teaches specific hazardous substances located in the workplace as well as the procedures that must be followed for the storage, safe use, disposal, handling, and emergencies associated with the various substances.

WHMIS Symbols to Remember

When you know the answer to "what does WHMIS stand for", you need to know certain WHMIS symbols that are commonly used. Usually, these symptoms are categorized into 6 classifications.

1. Compressed Gas

Meaning: This is a symbol that stands for a substance that is a compressed gas. It involves any gas that is kept under constant pressure. It should be known that heat may cause the substance under pressure to explode, or any kind of dropping of the substance or impact of the container may cause it to explode. The gases are considered hazardous just because they are under a high pressure although the gas itself may also be a hazardous material. If the gas is hazardous, too, there will be other hazard symbols besides the compressed gas symbolization. Just avoid dropping it or similar action. And it should be kept away from heat or any other source of ignition. It should be stored in a special place and secured with a chain if the container is large.

Examples: Chlorine gas, helium gas, neon gas, nitrogen gas, and argon gas. Fire extinguishers also qualify as a compressed gas.

2. Flammable and Combustible Materials

Meaning: This is a symbol that stands for Flammable and Combustible Materials. The substance is potentially a fire hazard. It can burn at a low or high temperature and can be ignited by friction, a spark or a flame. It may release some type of flammable gas when exposed to water or can combust spontaneously in the air. These types of materials should be kept away from any kind of heat source and any other material that may be combustible.One should never smoke when dealing with these materials. It should be kept in a fire-proof, cool location.

Divisions and examples:There are six divisions of the flammable and combustible materials, listing like below:

  • Flammable gases like methane, propane;
  • Flammable liquids that have a flashpoint below 37°C and the liquidshave fumes that are flammable, like gasoline, methanol;
  • Liquidswith a flashpoint that is above 37°C, like diethyl ether;
  • Flammable solids, like sodium, beryllium;
  • Flammable aerosols such as substances in aerosol cans;
  • Flammable materials reactive enough to spontaneously ignite in the air like celluloid or in the water like sodium.

3. Oxidizing Materials

Meaning: These are oxidizing materials. This is a substance that is an explosion risk or fire risk when it is near combustible or flammable material. It may cause burns to the skin or eyes when in contact with these body parts. It may or may not burn by itself but will cause the release of oxygen or some other type of oxidizing material, causing a combustible or flammable material to burn in its presence.

One should keep these materials from any combustible materials and it should be stored in a specifically designated area. It should be kept from any source of ignition and one should never smoke around the substance. One should wear eye, hand and face protection when dealing with the substance.

Examples: Perchloric acid, sulfuric acid, sodium peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, benzyl peroxide, dichromates, permanganates, bleach, chlorine, perchlorates.

4. Infectious or Poisonous Material

Meaning: This refers to substance potentially poisonous or fatal. It can cause permanent damage if it is inhaled, absorbed through the skin or swallowed. It can cause burns to the eyes or skin when in contact with the substance. There are also some divisions.

Divisions 1: Substances can cause serious and immediate toxicity. They are of immediate danger to a person's health and life and can instantly kill. The material should be handled with great caution. There should be no contact with eyes or skin and protective clothing must be worn. It should be worked with in well-ventilated places so as to avoid inhaling it. Respiratory equipment should be work and one should wash up and shower completely after contact with it. It must be stored in designated places only.

Division 2: This involves substances that can cause other types of toxic effects. This is a substance that is poisonous but is not dangerous to health right away. It can cause permanent damage or death if a person is repeatedly exposed to the substance over a long period of time. This includes materials that have the ability to result in irritation to the lungs, skin or eyes. This is a substance that can cause non-immediate health effects, including asthma, cancer, allergies, birth defects, organ damage or sterility. There should be no eye or skin contact and the user must wear protective clothing and protection for the eyes, hands, and face. Respiratory equipment should also be applied. These materials should be used in a well-ventilated area so as to avoid inhaling it, and it should be stored in designated places.

Examples: asbestos, benzene.

Division 3: This refers to materials that involve an infectious material that is biohazardous. It includes organisms and toxins that can cause disease.

Examples: Viruses, bacteria, hepatitis B virus, anthrax, salmonella, molds, fungi, blood that is contaminated and cultures containing pathogenic bacteria.

5. Corrosive Substance

Meaning: This symbol refers to corrosive substance. It includes acidic or caustic substances that can erode through skin or corrode various metals like steel or aluminum.

Examples: Sulfuric acid, chromic acid, sodium hydroxide, lye, hydrofluoric acid, nitric acid, certain household cleaners, photographic chemicals, and water treatment chemicals. It also includes certain corrosive gases like hydrogen fluoride, ammonia, hydrogen iodide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen bromide.

6. Material Considered Dangerously Reactive

Meaning: These are substances that undergo reactions that can be dangerous including decomposition, polymerization, or condensation when exposed to pressure, shock, heat, or exposure to water.

Examples: Copper acydes, mercury acydes, ether, acetylides, benzyl peroxide, peroxides, plastic monomers like butadiene, picric acid and isopropyl nitrates. Calcium carbide is included because it undergoes a reaction with water to make acetylene gas.

What does WHMIS stand for? How much do you know? Here is an online quiz about WHMIS for you.

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