Tuesday, July 9th, 2019
Does WHMIS require me to have an SDS for every product in my workplace?

What is a WHMIS exempt product and do I need an SDS for it?

by: Cara Pembroke

WHMIS Regulations lay out the requirements for suppliers and importers of hazardous products used in Canada. The Canadian supplier or importer is required to determine if their products are hazardous and prepare and maintain Safety Data Sheets and labels to provide to their customers.

There are certain products that are not covered under WHMIS. It is important to note that although the product types listed below are not covered under WHMIS regulation, they are covered under other legislation and the users of these products must comply with any labelling requirements within the applicable acts and regulations. An exemption from WHMIS regulation does not mean non-hazardous. Your chemical safety program should cover all hazardous products that workers could be exposed to. An employer is still required to be aware of the hazards of each product they are using and to train and educate their workforce on safe use, storage, and disposal.

Let’s discuss excluded product types:

Pest Control Products

One of the most common categories of WHMIS-exempt products are pesticides. Herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides all fall under this umbrella. These products are covered under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA).

Although manufacturers of these products are not required to provide a WHMIS 2015 SDS or label, here at Chemscape we are seeing some manufacturers who are providing GHS SDSs for pesticide products. As noted above, WHMIS-exempt does not mean they are not hazardous - some pesticides present severe health hazards such as organ and reproductive toxicity. If a GHS SDS is not available from the manufacturer, the consumer can continue to use an MSDS in the WHMIS 1988 format (the same applies to all categories covered on this list).

Manufactured Articles

These are products that:

  • are shaped or designed during manufacture to certain specifications
  • their intended use is the product or shape as a whole
  • will not release hazardous products during normal use or installation

Some examples of manufactured articles are printer cartridges, pens, and electrical equipment. An SDS is not needed if you are using a manufactured article as intended. However, if you are handling the product at other stages such as manufacturing or recycling, product information regarding the hazards of that process would be required.


Consumer products

Consumer chemical products are products that are available for sale to the general public at retail outlets such as Canadian Tire. These products are regulated under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. Generally, they are sold and used in smaller quantities than a chemical purchased for workplace use and the labelling of the consumer chemical will cover the directions for safe use.

It is up to the supplier whether to provide SDSs for these products, but we do see that some larger retail outlets have SDSs available for their consumer chemical products.

If a consumer product is brought into a workplace environment, it should be treated no differently than any other workplace chemical. The hazards need to be understood, and employees working with this chemical should receive proper training and education for safe use.

Cosmetics, devices, drugs or food

These products are covered under the Food and Drugs Act. Some examples we see in the Chemscape library include Aspirin tablets, veterinary drugs, and some soap products (cosmetic).

As above, the same applies - if a product that falls into this category is brought into a workplace environment, training and education on the hazards is required for employees working with these products. WHMIS 1988 MSDSs, product labelling, and Information Sheets, if available, can be used to determine the hazards.

Other exempt products include:

  • Wood or products made of wood.
  • Explosives as defined in the Explosives Act.
  • Nuclear substances within the meaning of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, that are radioactive.
  • Hazardous waste that is being sold for recycling, recovery, or is intended for disposal.
  • Tobacco and tobacco products as defined in the Tobacco Act.

If you are a Chemscape client, you may notice a few remaining MSDSs in the system which apply to one of the Non-WHMIS Controlled categories. These products will be marked as “Not Controlled” in the system.

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