What is the difference between WHMIS 1988 MSDS & WHMIS 2015 SDS Formats

The Difference Between WHMIS 1988 MSDS & WHMIS 2015

The Difference Between WHMIS 1988 MSDS & WHMIS 2015

Health Canada has aligned the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) with the widely recognized Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). WHMIS will now be referred to as WHIMIS 1988 and the newly updated GHS and WHMIS will be referred to as WHMIS 2015. The entire process was completed in 3 phases, with the final phase being completed on December 1st, 2018.

To ensure that your business operations and workers are WHMIS trained and compliant, learn more about our GHS Transition Solutions.  

Easily transition to updated WHMIS and SDS Management solutions

What Changed in WHMIS 2015?

Changes to WHMIS 2015 Include:

  • Ensuring that important safety information used by workers are easily located on labels and safety data sheets

  • Adopting internationally recognized methods for classifying hazardous workplace chemicals and providing detailed information and safety data sheets. 

  • Ensuring safety data sheets are consistent throughout all suppliers.  

  • Improving the visual elements of labels to include easy-understand pictograms to identify hazard classes. 

  • Updating the layout and format of safety data sheets.  

  • Modifying the term “Controlled Products” to the widely used term “Hazardous Products” in order to maintain consistency with federal WHMIS legislation. 

  • Distinguishing hazardous products into specific hazard groups, physical hazards and health hazards.

WHMIS 1988 vs WHMIS 2015

WHMIS 1988 

WHMIS 2015 

Product Identifier 

Product Identifier 

Supplier Identifier 

Supplier Identifier 

Symbols (Black Circle) 

Pictogram (Red Square) 

Risk Phrases 

Hazard Statement 


Signal Word 

Precautionary Measures 

Precautionary Statements 

First Aid Statement 

Included Within Precautionary Statement 

Hatched Border 

Not Included 

Materials Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) 

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) 

Controlled Products Regulations 

Hazardous Products Regulations 

6 Hazard Classes 

32 Hazard Classes 

WHMIS 1988 vs WHMIS 2015 (GHS) Comparison Chart

WHMIS 1988 vs WHMIS 2015 (GHS) Comparison Chart

Old System - WHMIS 1988

New System - WHMIS 2015

1988 Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) 2015 Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS)
Controlled Products Hazardous Products

Signal Word

Danger (more serious hazards)
Warning (less serious hazards)



Health Hazard Classes (12 categories)
Physical Hazard Classes (9 categories)
Environmental Hazard Classes (2 categories but not adopted by Canada; may see on SDS arriving from outside Canada)

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs)

9-section format
Update every 3 years

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

16-section format
Order is very structured and specific
Signal words (Warning or Danger)
Hazard and Precautionary Statements
Hazard Pictograms

Round Black & White Hazard Symbols

Flammable Symbol

Red Square 45° on a point Pictogram

Red square tilted 45 degrees on a point pictogram

WHMIS 1988 Supplier Label

WHMIS 1988 Supplier Label

WHMIS 2015 Supplier Label 

Product K1


WHMIS 1988 Hazard Class WHMIS 1988 Symbols WHMIS 2015 Symbol(s) WHMIS 2015 Hazard Class
A Class A Class A New Symbol Gases Under Pressure
B1 to B6 Class B Old Symbol Class B New Symbol Flammables, Self-heating, Emit Flammable Gases, Pyrophoric Gases, Liquids & Solids Organic Peroxides
C Class C Old Symbol Class C New Symbol Oxidizing Gases, Liquids, Solids
D1 Class D1 Poisonous Old Symbol

Class D1 Poisonous New SymbolClass D1 Poisonous New Symbol

Acute Toxicity - Oral, Dermal, Inhalation
D2 Class D2 Old Symbol

Class D2 New SymbolClass D2 New Symbol

Eye Irritation, Skin Irritation Skin/Respiratory Sensitization, Carcinogenicity Mutagenicity Reproductive Hazards
D3 Class D3 Old Symbol Class D3 Symbol Biohazardous Infectious Materials
E Class E Corrosive Old Symbol Class E Corrosive New Symbol Skin/Eye Corrosion Corrosive to Metals
F Class F Old Symbol

Class F New SymbolClass F New Symbol

Self-Reactive Substances Organic Peroxides
N/A N/A Explosive Symbol Explosive Substances (Explosives are still covered under WHMIS exclusions for now)
N/A N/A Aspiration Aspiration, STOT (Single Exposure, Repeated Exposure)
N/A N/A N/A Combustible Dusts
N/A N/A N/A Simple Asphyxiants
N/A N/A Use appropriate symbol Physical Hazards Not Otherwise Classified, Health Hazards Not Otherwise Classified

Get Help With WHMIS 2015 Implementation & Compliance 

Chemscape offers SDS and chemical management solutions to help organizations implement and comply with WHMIS 2015. Contact us today to learn more. 


Contact Chemscape Safety Technologies, 2018 Reader’s Choice for best SDS Management solutions.

Related Posts