WHMIS Competency on the Job
Providing workers with a WHMIS 2015 general course is just one step in a comprehensive WHMIS Program. Ensuring WHMIS Competency; the ability to manage and safely work with hazardous products requires further action and education from the employer.
WHMIS legislation details certain responsibilities for both employers and workers to demonstrate competency.
As an Employer
Know the hazards: Employers are required to know and understand the hazards of the products in their workplace. Assessments to understand the workplace-specific hazards and the physical and health risks need to be completed. A worker’s risk of exposure is dependent on the inherent hazards of the product, type and frequency of use, and quantity used. Even when working with the same chemical, these factors will vary from task to task.
Factors to consider when assessing chemical exposure risk
Competency check: Do you have a current inventory of your hazardous products?
Control the hazards: After completing a risk assessment, employers must implement appropriate control measure(s) to remove or reduce the risk of exposure to the workers who handle these products. Use the hierarchy of controls to determine the appropriate control methods for each chemical hazard. As the image portrays, it is much more effective to substitute for a less toxic chemical if possible or to increase ventilation than to use Personal Protective Equipment.
The Hierarchy of Controls
Competency Check: Do you have your risk assessments recorded and available for future reference?
Site Procedures: Develop and implement procedures around chemical handling, emergency measures, storage, and disposal methods for all hazardous products being used at your site/by your workers.
Competency Check: Do workers know what to do if there is a large chemical spill? What type of products could create a hazardous condition if released from its container? Do you understand what incident reporting needs to be done and how?
Hazard Communication: Employers need to ensure workers understand how to work safely with the chemicals they encounter. This includes ensuring that all Safety Data Sheets and labels are up to date and comply with WHMIS regulations. It also includes worker education on the safe work procedures and job-specific training on the chemicals that workers will work with or near. Workers should have access to SDSs and any other applicable information or documents they need to work safely.
Competency Check: Are all your SDSs current and readily available? Do you have visual reminders of chemical hazards in the work area? Do you have job-specific training aids for chemicals?
As a Worker
Know the Hazards: Workers are responsible to understand the risks of the chemicals they work with. This understanding comes from participating in WHMIS Training Courses and job-specific education provided by your employer. Apply this knowledge to the hazardous products you work with. Know how to access and become familiar with the SDSs for these products. Ensure product labels are present, legible, and up to date.
Follow Procedures: Follow the employer’s procedures for safe use, storage, disposal of hazardous materials, and emergency situations.
Report: You have the right to a safe workplace. Do not use chemicals on your worksite if you are not familiar with the risks or how to protect yourself from exposure. Report your concerns to your employer.
Competency Check: Do you know the hazards of the chemicals you work with? Do you know how to protect yourself?