Am I Required to Have WHMIS Training?

The Canadian government has mandated through legislation that it is the responsibility of employers to ensure WHMIS is provided and kept up to date. This means that it is a legal requirement with for your employees to receive training in WHMIS and to be able to prove that they know and understand the content. Safety protocols surrounding hazardous materials and emergency procedures need to be understood by everyone in order to ensure workers and the public are kept as safe as possible.

There are also possible legal consequences if your workplace cannot prove that it or its employees are WHMIS compliant.

The Canadian government does not oversee the exact implementation of WHMIS education in the workplace. But through Health Canada, Occupational Health and Safety (or other Health Canada jurisdictions) WHMIS is maintained and provided throughout the country. The expectation then is put upon employers to educate their employees.

Health Canada, or other offshoots within this government branch, does not issue any standardized methods of training, testing, or official WHMIS certificate. Because it is up to each individual employer's discretion on how to train its workers, ensuring that employees are kept safe and are operating safely becomes difficult to monitor. Local representatives of Occupational Health and Safety may conduct workplace visits and inspections to determine if WHMIS compliance is being enacted.

These representatives, such as a health and safety inspector, may come to inspect a workplace visually, looking for hazards and risks that have not been properly tended to. They may also ask questions of employers and employees to discern if a WHMIS program has been implemented. They will want to know if adequate training has been provided and if employees have retained adequate knowledge of their workplace hazards.

If an employer can provide the name of the organization they have utilized to provide WHMIS instruction for their employees, it is a great help toward showing they have accomplished 100% WHMIS compliance.

Also, if employees each have a certificate from a qualified WHMIS training provider, they can help to individually represent their knowledge of workplace safety and hazards. The certificate will help any investigator to easily verify an employee's training. Better yet would be a database that keeps records of the employee's completion of their training and the dates it was done.

When you consider how WHMIS is important across various industries and workplace, there are three groups of people who can tell you if you need to take WHMIS. These are also the people to listen to if they recommend you need to renew or retake your WHMIS.

  1. Your Employer. Your employer is responsible for your health and safety on the job and they can require you to take specific safety training related to your workplace. When there are hazardous chemicals in the workplace or you work in other locations that have hazardous materials, the employees need to be trained in WHMIS and the employer can require employees to complete the training. Your employer is also the one who will (or should) know if you have completed the most up to date training. If you have only partially completed the entire training, or if there has been an update to the most current WHMIS information, you may be required by your employer to enter into more training.
  2. A Safety Inspector. Any representative or inspector from a provincial or federal authority can require employers and employees to get training specific to their job and workplace. Most commonly this type of inspector would be from Occupational Health and Safety or other safety taskforces or boards. If you are working with hazardous chemicals and a government representative determines you are not knowledgeable on WHMIS, they can require you to be trained on WHMIS. The legislation around WHMIS is clear and the government has mandated this type of training for the benefit of both workers and the public. The law protects you and a safety inspector is doing their job to help ensure your safety.
  3. A Contractor or Jobsite Manager. Any person responsible for a jobsite where there are other workers, subcontractors or even volunteers on the jobsite can identify the need for WHMIS training and require you to get training. The person who is overseeing that job site is responsible for all of the people on the jobsite and it is literally part of their job to ensure other workers comply with all health and safety regulations. Your job lead or jobsite manager is entitled to ask you to produce proof of WHMIS training or ask you to be retrained with a recognized WHMIS training organization who can provide you with documentation of training, typically a certificate of completion, like a WHMIS certificate.

When one of these people tells you that you need to renew your training or need a new WHMIS certificate, you will need to listen. Even if you feel you have current WHMIS training, there may be new procedures or updated information on risks and hazards that you may not know about. Having taken WHMIS a couple years ago or even a year ago may not be enough.

An online training provider shouldn't try tell you, "You have to take WHMIS." Only these three people can.

What we can tell you though, is that when you do need WHMIS training, our easy online WHMIS course modules make it possible for you to get a recognized WHMIS certificate as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Often, it is making the decision to get training that takes longer than completing the course itself. You can have your certification in as little as one day. In fact, it only takes a couple of minutes to enrol so that you can prove you have begun your training. Once you begin your training, you can stop and start your training modules so that they fit into your day at your convenience.

And when it comes to making workplace health and safety a priority, it is not just a professional and legal obligation being put upon us as employers or workers. We are the ones who can ensure that this important training is something that becomes a standard we require of ourselves. When we all practice safety, we all benefit.