Canada developed the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) in 1988 based on the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR) in the Hazardous Products Act (HPA). WHMIS 1988 became the national hazard communication standard in Canada until the WHMIS update in February 2015. WHMIS 2015 was updated to incorporate the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling for Chemicals (GBS), replacing CPR as a national safety standard.
Ultimately, there is no WHMIS 2021 because the safety standards have been met and not significantly updated since 2015. WHMIS 2015 serves as the safety standard for workplaces across Canada, just as WHMIS 1988 was before its creation.

WHMIS 2015 did update some of the hazard classifications and safety requirements, and not much has changed. Suppliers, employers, and workers are still subject to the same regulations and job requirements. Obligations for SDS and labels are similarly unchanged. You should see no traces of WHMIS 1988 labels or training in the workplace, as workplaces phased out this version of WHMIS at the end of 2018.

After updating to WHMIS 2015, Safety Data Sheets (SDS) have replaced the WHMIS 1988 Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). MSDS sheets could have as little as nine or as many as sixteen sections, while SDS sheets consistently have sixteen. Another change is the transition in the WHMIS warning symbols, also known as pictograms. Notably, the 2015 pictograms have square borders, replacing the circular ones from 1988. Also, there have been changes to the pictograms. The WHMIS 2015 update dropped two of 1988’s pictograms and added four more. Now there are ten pictograms in total.


Published: November 10, 2021
Last Modified: January 24, 2022