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 is now referred to as WHMIS 1988 and the updated GHS and WHMIS are 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.  

WHMIS 1988 vs. WHMIS 2015 Guide Contents 

December 2022 Update to WHMIS 2015 

The final Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR) were published on February 11, 2015 in the Canada Gazette, Part II. The provinces across Canada followed the federal legislation and subsequently rolled out their WHMIS legislation. Employers had to be fully transitioned to WHMIS 2015 by Dec. 1, 2018.  

How GHS rev 7 and 8 have changed WHMIS 2015:  

In December 2022, WHMIS was amended to align with the 7th revised edition of GHS and certain provisions of the 8th revised edition. For workplaces, the most noticeable changes are the adoption of a new Physical Hazard Class (Chemicals Under Pressure), and the adoption of a new non-flammable aerosol hazard category, and a new subcategory for flammable gases.   

  • What do I need to do as an employer? Employers should train employees on the updated Hazard Classes and Categories.

  • What do I need to do as a supplier? If you offer your own WHMIS training, it needs to cover the updated classifications: Flammable Gases, Aerosols, and Gases Under Pressure.   

Learn More About GHS Revision 7 & 8


Updated WHMIS Pictograms and their Hazard Classes Overview

Under WHMIS 2015, hazard classes are separated into two overarching groups: health hazards and physical hazards. 

  Health Hazards

Health Hazard WHMIS Pictogram


Skull & Crossbones WHMIS Pictogram


Exclamation Mark WHMIS Pictogram


Corrosion WHMIS Pictogram



  Physical Hazards

Gas Cylinder WHMIS Pictogram


Exploding Bomb WHMIS Pictogram


Flame WHMIS Pictogram


Flame Over Circle WHMIS Pictogram


Biohazardous Infectious Materials WHMIS Pictogram



Optional Environmental GHS Pictograms 

These GHS pictograms were not adopted by WHMIS 2015 but may be seen on labels and SDSs arriving from outside of Canada. 

Environment and Exclamation Mark Symbols

Easily transition to updated WHMIS and SDS Management solutions

What Changed in WHMIS 2015?

Changes to WHMIS 2015 Include:

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

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

  • Ensuring safety data sheets are consistent throughout all suppliers.  

  • Improving the visual elements of labels to include easy-to-understand WHIMIS 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 Terms

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
Not Applicable

Signal Word

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

Six classes with divisions or subdivisions


Health Hazard Classes (12 categories)
Physical Hazard Classes (10 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 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 Workplace Label

WHMIS 1988 Workplace Label


WHMIS 2015 Workplace Label


WHMIS 1988 vs WHMIS 2015 Hazard Symbols & Hazard Class Comparison

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, Chemical Under Pressure
B1 to B6 Class B Old Symbol Class B New Symbol Flammables (gases, liquids, aerosols or solids), Self-heating substances and mixtures, Pyrophoric (gases, liquid or solid), Organic Peroxides, Chemicals which in contact with water emit flammable gas
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

Need Help with WHMIS 2015 Implementation & Compliance? 

Chemscape offers SDS management, SDS authoring, and chemical management software to help organizations implement and comply with WHMIS 2015. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help elevate the level of occupational health standards for your business. 


WHMIS 1988 vs WHMIS 2015 FAQ

WHMIS was updated to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) which provides a more standardized approach to hazard communication in Canada. This also enables Canadian workplaces to communicate hazards more effectively with other countries that have adopted GHS. 

The purpose of WHMIS 2015’s hazard groupings is to make it easier for workers to identify and understand the specific health hazards associated with a workplace product or substance. 

Under WHMIS 2015, supplier labels must show the product identifier and supplier identifier, as well as standardized pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, and precautionary statements. 

WHMIS 1988 had six classes of hazardous materials, while WHMIS 2015 has expanded to include three major hazard groups: physical hazards, health hazards, and environmental hazards. 

Employers who fail to comply with WHMIS 2015 may result in fines of up to $1,000,000 and legal action due to endangering the safety of their workers. 

Suppliers are responsible for providing safety data sheets for hazardous products they sell or distribute.

The deadline to transition from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015 was December 1, 2018.

Workers should report the issue to their employer or supervisor and avoid using the product until proper labelling is in place. 

Elevate the level of occupational health standards for your company.

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