Category: News


A Comparison of GHS Formats – USA vs Canada

WHMIS 2015 legislation has brought some changes to the requirements for SDSs and labels in Canada. New WHMIS 2015 legislation combines six additional hazards, adopted from GHS – the system used in the United States and many countries around the world for the standardised classification of chemicals– into WHMIS 1988.

But while GHS regulations are now the standard in both the United States and Canada, differences still exist between the regulatory requirements of the two countries’ SDSs and labels.
Below is a chart outlining the most significant differences:

As you can see, while the SDS and label requirements under WHMIS 2015 are more similar to those in the United States with the incorporation of GHS, there are still some key differences that can make compliance with the regulations of both countries challenging.

However, Hazox is here to help.

As you can see, while the SDS and label requirements under WHMIS 2015 are more similar to those in the United States with the incorporation of GHS, there are still some key differences that can make compliance with the regulations of both countries challenging.

As you can see, while the SDS and label requirements under WHMIS 2015 are more similar to those in the United States with the incorporation of GHS, there are still some key differences that can make compliance with the regulations of both countries challenging.

We offer fully compliant turn-key solutions to ensure you are always fully compliant as regulation requirements change. We offer packages for Canada, as well as countries all over the world.

When adding a country turn-key implementation package in Hazox, you will receive all the components needed to author a fully compliant SDS, including: document template(s), specific legislated phrases for headings and subheadings in both the native language & English, classifications specific to the country or region, including all the relevant system tables, range tables and configurations required to author a fully compliant SDS and LABEL.

If you’re interested in purchasing a package or receiving more information, contact us today!


A Look at “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified” (HNOCs)

In this article:

An in-depth look at ‘hazards not otherwise classified.’

With the incorporation of GHS into WHMIS, and the subsequent creation of the new WHMIS 2015 legislation, many new hazard categories – both physical and health – have been introduced. At the same time, several hazard categories defined under WHMIS 1988 remain the same.

One of the new physical and health hazard categories – and perhaps the most confusing when dealing with labeling of hazardous materials – is “hazards not otherwise classified” (HNOCs). In this installment, we will introduce you to this hazard category and break it down to the basic elements you need to know.


Hazards not otherwise classified – What does it mean?

“Hazards not otherwise classified” pertain to both physical and health hazards, and describes the dangers of exposure that do not clearly fit into one of the official hazards defined under official GHS guidelines.  It was introduced as an answer to the need for all hazardous material to be identified as such – and fills the gap of potential risks that do not fit into one of the pre-existing categories.  

It is a requirement of WHMS 2015 that any product classified in this class must include a description of the nature of the hazard on the product’s label and SDS.



Physical hazards not otherwise classified – WHMIS 2015

Under WHMIS 2015 legislation, “physical hazards not otherwise classified” are defined as any materials that “have the characteristic of occurring by chemical reaction and result in the serious injury or death of a person at the time the reaction occurs.” An example of this may be a thermal hazards.


Health hazards not otherwise classified – WHMIS 2015

Under WHMIS 2015 legislation, “health hazards not otherwise classified” are defined as “hazards that have the characteristic of occurring following acute or repeated exposure and have an adverse effect on the health of a person exposed to it – including an injury or resulting in the death of that person.” An example of this may be a lachrymator – something that causes tearing (watering of the eyes), but doesn’t officially come under GHS.




Under both GHS and WHMIS legislation, every hazard class is identified by a corresponding pictogram, used to illustrate the specific hazard. As “hazards not otherwise classified” cannot be placed into one of the hazard classes, there will be no corresponding pictogram. It is up to you to use the appropriate pictograms for the product, based on what the specific hazard of the material is.




Understanding New Hazard Classifications in WHMIS 2015

In today’s installment of our WHMIS series, we will focus on the new chemical classifications mandated by WHMIS 2015 – specifically focusing on biohazardous infectious materials and combustible dust.

What’s new?
Under WHMIS 1988 legislation, chemicals were broken down into six classifications, identified by letters A-F. Some of these classifications also had divisions and subdivisions.

Under WHMIS 2015, things get a little more complicated. WHMIS now categorizes chemicals into two main hazard groups: Physical and Health.  Within each group, there are several hazard classes, and within the classes, chemicals are placed into categories, or types, based on the level of hazard the chemical poses, with “category 1” being the most serious.

*GHS also identifies a third group: Environmental Hazards. This has not been adopted by WHMIS 2015, but may still appear on SDSs.

Biohazardous Infectious Materials
What are ‘biohazardous infectious materials?’
A biohazardous infectious material, as recognized exclusively under WHMIS legislation in Canada, is any material that causes or is known to potentially contribute to the cause of infection, with or without toxicity, in humans and animals. These materials include microorganisms, nucleic acids, and proteins. Examples include blood contaminated with contagious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, salmonella, etc.

Anything categorized into risk Groups 2, 3, and 4 as determined by the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Medical Research Council of Canada are considered to be biohazardous infectious materials.

Unlike the other pictograms included in WHMIS 2015, which have updated to the red diamond-bordered symbols of GHS, biohazardous infectious materials are still identified by their original black-circle-bordered pictogram. This is because GHS does not recognize biohazardous infectious materials – this is a recognized hazard carried over from WHMIS 1988 legislation.

These materials must only be handled while fully protected by the use of appropriate protective equipment.

Combustible Dust
What is ‘combustible dust?’
WHMIS 2015 defines combustible dust as “a mixture or substance that is in the form of finely divided solid particles that, upon ignition, is liable to catch fire or explode when dispersed in air or is classified in a category of the hazard class “Flammable Solids” and 5.0% or more of its composition by weight is a flammable solid and has a particle size ≤ 500µm.”

The following materials have the potential to create combustible dust:

Most solid organic materials (such as sugar, flour, grain, wood, etc.)
Many metals
Some nonmetallic inorganic materials

Many of these materials are not normally combustible, so a thorough inspection should always be completed to determine if combustion is possible.

There is some variance in the definition of combustible dust across countries and even provinces within Canada.

In the United States, combustible dust is defined as, “a solid material composed of distinct particles or pieces, regardless of size, shape, or chemical composition, which presents a fire or deflagration hazard when suspended in air or some other oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations.”
Classification of Combustible Dust
There are currently no regulations or laws for dealing with combustible dust in the United States, while Canadian laws are broken down by federal, provincial, and territorial. This makes dealing with combustible dust more complicated than most hazardous materials.
However, WHMIS 2015 does recognize combustible dust as its own hazard category within the ‘Physical Hazard’ class.

There are many factors that must be considered when evaluating the level of hazard a combustible dust poses. WHMIS 2015 outlines some of them as:

The particle size of the dust,
The method of dispersion
Ventilation system characteristics
Air currents
Ignition sources
Confinement of the dust cloud
Physical barriers

The OHSA in the United States outlines the process for determining the hazard of a combustible dust, and suggests the following must be taken into consideration:

Anticipated types of operations
Uses or downstream material processing that generate dusts should be considered normal conditions of use of a substance. These include operations and uses such as abrasive blasting, cutting, grinding, polishing or crushing of materials; conveying, mixing, sifting or screening dry materials; and the buildup of dried residue from processing wet materials.

Stay tuned to Hazox for more information about WHMIS 2015 regulations. In the next article, we will provide an in-depth, side-by-side comparison of the newly-adopted GHS pictograms, compared to the pictograms of WHMIS 1988.


SERIES EXTRA: Symbols and Pictograms

In This Article:

Pictograms: What’s New?
Download high-resolution WHMIS pictograms


As part of our continued dedication to promote important, timely and useful information, we are pleased to feature the next installment of our series devoted to examining Canada’s WHMIS 2015 legislation and its impact on SDSs and chemical labels.


In this edition, we will look at changes to the familiar WHMIS symbols widely recognized by the Canadian public.  More specifically, we will present a side-by-side comparison of the new WHMIS 2015 pictograms vis-à-vis the pictograms required by WHMIS 1988 to see what’s new.


Beyond the readily apparent cosmetic makeover of WHMIS 1988 symbols, WHMIS 2015 updates include other important distinctions:


While the pictograms of WHMIS 1988 each represented a specific hazard class, WHMIS 2015 pictograms can be applied to several categories and hazard classes.


Below is a side-by-side comparison of the pictograms, contrasting 1988 symbols with those required by WHMIS 2015:

As you can see, aside from the updated red diamond instead of the previously used black circle that surrounds the image, many of the pictograms have remained the same or are very similar in appearance. However, some, like the exploding bomb, health hazard, and exclamation mark pictograms, are new to WHMIS 2015, adopted from the GHS pictograms. Meanwhile, some WHMIS 1988 pictograms, like the poisonous and infectious material and dangerously reactive material pictograms are no longer in use.

Some of the new pictograms, like the flame and exclamation mark, actually indicate categories that were previously identified by two separate pictograms.
We hope this will serve as a useful and handy guide for you, and assist in your labeling and SDS authoring.  For your convenience, we have an archive of WHMIS Pictograms available for download.



WHMIS 2015 SDS & Label Requirements

In this installment of our series, we highlight the things you need to know about the new regulations for Safety Data Sheets and labels required under WHMIS 2015.


Safety Data Sheets – SDS
Under previous WHMIS 1988 legislation, every hazardous material was required to have a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), in both French and English.  This is still the case under WHMIS 2015, but these sheets are now called Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and require more information on a material.

For suppliers, the transitional period runs through June 1, 2018, as described in the following schedule:



Effective dates


Now through
31 May 2017

Suppliers must use a label and (M)SDS for each hazardous product that fully complies with either WHMIS 1988 or WHMIS 2015 requirements (but not a combination of the two).


1 June 2017 through
31 May 2018

Manufacturers and importers are required to provide SDSs and labels in the new format required by WHMIS 2015 for all hazardous products sold and/or imported into Canada. (This deadline concludes the transition period for manufacturers and importers, but not for distributors.)

1 June 2018

Transition to WHMIS 2015 is complete for all suppliers, including distributors.

How do the MSDS requirements of WHMIS 1988 differ from the SDSs requirements of WHMIS 2015?
Under WHMIS 1988, MSDSs on all hazardous materials were required under 9 main categories, or sections. The new format for SDSs under WHMIS 2015 are a coupling of the original MSDS requirements of WHMIS 1988 with the SDS guidelines set forth by GHS.

WHMIS 2015 SDSs require detailed information on all hazardous materials to be reported in a document comprised of the following 16 sections:


Includes product identifier; manufacturer or distributor name, address, phone number; emergency phone number; recommended use; restrictions on use.

Hazard Identification

Includes all GHS (and WHMIS) hazards regarding the chemical; required label elements.

Composition/Information on Ingredients

Includes information on chemical ingredients; trade secret claims.

First-Aid Measures

Includes important symptoms/ effects, acute, delayed; required treatment.

Fire-Fighting Measures

Lists suitable and unsuitable extinguishing techniques, equipment; chemical hazards from fire.

Accidental Release Measures

Lists emergency procedures; protective equipment; proper methods of containment and cleanup.

Handling and Storage

Lists precautions for safe handling and storage, including incompatibilities.

Exposure Controls/Personal Protection

Lists Canadian occupational exposure limits broken down by each Province (13 in total), appropriate engineering controls; personal protective equipment (PPE).

Physical and Chemical Properties

Lists the chemical’s characteristics.

Stability and Reactivity

Lists chemical stability and possibility of hazardous reactions.

Toxicological Information

Includes routes of exposure; related symptoms, acute and chronic effects; numerical measures of toxicity.

Ecological Information

Not mandatory – Includes ecotoxicity data, Persistence and degradability, Bioaccumulative potential, Mobility in soil and other adverse effects.

Disposal Considerations

Not mandatory – Information on safe handling for disposal and methods of disposal, including any contaminated packaging.

Transport Information

Not mandatory – Transport by land (TDG), Sea (IMDG/IMO) and air (IATA).

Regulatory Information

Not mandatory – Safety, health and environmental regulations specific to the product

Other Information

Includes the date of preparation or last revision.


Click here to see what was required under WHMIS 1988


*It is important to note that including information on categories 12 through 15 is not required in Canada. However, the headings must still be present on every SDS, even if the information is left off the sheet.


While the purpose of both MSDSs and SDSs is the same, requirements for MSDSs allowed for much greater flexibility and appear to be less standardized.  In contrast, SDSs must follow a more tightly prescribed format that defines the exact headings and subheadings to be included, the order in which they must appear, the verbiage required for reporting risks and potential hazards of a substance, and the wording of precautionary statements describing how to properly protect oneself in the event of an exposure.


Under WHMIS 2015, all materials that could be considered hazardous must be labeled with a strict set of information, as was the law with WHMIS 1988.

Information required on labels under WHMIS 2015 has been largely unchanged from previous legislation — however, some things have been reworded and the format is slightly different.

All product labels under WHMIS 2015 must include the following information:

Product identifier – the brand name, chemical name, common name, generic name or trade name of the hazardous product.
Initial supplier identifier – the name, address and telephone number of either the Canadian manufacturer or the Canadian importer*. 
Pictogram(s) – hazard symbol within a red “square set on one of its points”.
Signal word – a word used to alert the reader to a potential hazard and to indicate the severity of the hazard.
Hazard statement(s) – standardized phrases, which describe the nature of the hazard posed by a hazardous product.
Precautionary statement(s) – standardized phrases that describe measures to be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to a hazardous product or resulting from improper handling or storage of a hazardous product.
Supplemental label information – some supplemental label information is required based on the classification of the product. For example, the label for a mixture containing ingredients with unknown toxicity in amounts higher than or equal to 1% must include a statement indicating the percent of the ingredient or ingredients with unknown toxicity. Labels may also include supplementary information about precautionary actions, hazards not yet included in the GHS, physical state, or route of exposure. This information must not contradict or detract from the standardized information.

Click here to see what was required under WHMIS 1988

One of the most major changes to labels under WHMIS 2015 are the pictograms, which have been updated to feature the red square borders of GHS, replacing the symbols with black circles required by WHMIS 1988.

Further, WHMIS 2015 labels are not required to feature a black-hatched border – a requirement of WHMIS 1988.


WHMIS 101: The Evolution of Canada’s Chemical Safety Legislation

A Primer on the Evolution of Canada’s Chemical Safety Legislation

In 2015, the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) was formally incorporated into Canada’s legislation governing the safe handling of chemicals in the workplace.  Originally known by its acronym and the year it was enacted, WHMIS 1988 (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) was established to dovetail Canadian and U.S. regulations, allowing for the trade of chemical products to flow across their shared border with one label and SDS per product.

Canada’s implementation of GHS does not replace current law, but rather, builds upon and amends existing WHMIS regulations.  Among the most significant amendments include:

Products previously known as “controlled” are now called “hazardous.”
Material Safety Data Sheets are now known as Safety Data Sheets, and unlike MSDSs, do not have an expiry date.
SDSs are longer and more detailed – requiring more information on the hazardous material.
Pictograms on labels and SDSs have changed. While previous pictograms are shown within a black circle, GHS pictograms have a red square around the image.
While WHMIS 1988 had 6 Hazard Classes and 3 divisions, WHMIS 2015 has 32 Hazard Classes with several divisions.
WHMIS 2015 Hazard Classes are divided into two categories – physical and health. These categories contain subcategories and/or types within them.
Labels are required on all products considered hazardous.
There are two types of labels – supplier labels and workplace labels.




Introducing: A Focus on WHMIS 2015

How Canada’s changing regulations for classifying & reporting chemical hazards will change your SDSs and labels (more than you may think!)

At Hazox, we are dedicated to compliance with chemical safety regulations around the world.  As part of our continued efforts to keep you up-to-date with the latest information, we are pleased to welcome you to A Focus on WHMIS 2015, our series dedicated to Canada’s formal adoption of GHS.



*If you have a specific question or topic that you would like us to cover in this series, please send your request to


2015 brought big changes to Canada’s chemical safety legislation, as the country updates WHMIS regulations to harmonize with the Globally Harmonized System of classifying and labeling chemical hazards developed by the United Nations.


Although more than 65 countries have adopted or are currently transitioning to GHS, even the most GHS-savvy organizations will face a learning curve to comply with WHMIS 2015.  A number of requirements unique to Canada will require a new approach to the way hazards are classified and reported on labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs).

This series will highlight the ways which Canada has customized their adoption of GHS guidelines under WHMIS, and how this affects SDSs and labels.  Additionally, we will contrast key requirements of WHMIS 2015 with the equivalent U.S. regulations set forth by OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 29 CFR 1910.1200.  If you have grown accustomed to sending U.S.-formatted SDSs to Canada, you may be surprised to learn how different the future will be!

What to Expect From This Series:
This series of articles about WHMIS 2015’s major changes will be posted regularly over the next several weeks, one topic at a time.  The topics will include:

WHMIS 101: A Primer on the Evolution of Canada’s Chemical Safety Legislation
WHMIS 2015 SDS & Label Requirements

»» Series Extra: WHMIS Pictograms & Symbols (Comparing the changes from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015) ««

Understanding new hazard classifications of WHMIS 2015:

Biohazardous materials: What are they?  Why has Canada included them in WHMIS?
Combustible dust: Ways of evaluating combustible dust hazards, and how it differs from the U.S. classification approach.

 A look at “Hazards Not Otherwise Classified”: What does it mean? What are they?  And how do they apply to both physical and health hazards.
Compliance Comparison (Canada vs. U.S.): How different are SDS and label requirements really?
Understanding new hazard classifications of WHMIS 2015  (Part 2)

Pyrophoric gases

Other topics TBD: based on feedback we receive or requests you submit to our team.


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