Move Over WHMIS, Here Come’s GHS

Cdn. Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS)?

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, GHS stands for the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. GHS is a system that defines and classifies the hazards of chemical products, and communicates health and safety information on labels and material safety data sheets (called Safety Data Sheets, or SDSs, in GHS).

The goal is that the same set of rules for classifying hazards, and the same format and content for labels and safety data sheets (SDS) will be adopted and used around the world. An international team of hazard communication experts developed GHS.

Why is global harmonization necessary?

Currently many different countries have different systems for classification and labelling of chemical products. In addition, several different systems can exist even within the same country. This situation has been expensive for governments to regulate and enforce, costly for companies who have to comply with many different systems, and confusing for workers who need to understand the hazards of a chemical in order to work safely. GHS promises to deliver several distinct benefits. Among them are:

  • Promoting regulatory efficiency.
  • Facilitating trade.
  • Easing compliance.
  • Reducing costs.
  • Providing improved, consistent hazard information.
  • Encouraging the safe transport, handling and use of chemicals.
  • Promoting better emergency response to chemical incidents.
  • Reducing the need for animal testing.


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has several free online courses called:

  • *WHMIS (after GHS) for Workers,
  • *WHMIS After GHS: An Introduction,
  • *WHMIS After GHS: How Suppliers Can Prepare.

Some of the objectives of these courses are to:

  1. Understand labels,
  2. Recognize pictograms (symbols) and understand the hazards they represent,
  3. Identify the hazards represented by each hazard class and category,
  4. Find additional information about hazards and protective measures on safety data sheets (SDS).

The information is based on the federal Hazardous Product Act and proposed Hazardous Products Regulations, administered by Health Canada.

Currently, suppliers and employers have a transition period to fully implement the changes.  WHMIS 2015 is expected to be completed by December 1, 2018.

STAO wishes to emphasize that this notice is for information purposes only.

Training that is acceptable to the employer (school board) is determined in consultation with the Joint Health & Safety Committee.   In addition, the employer is required to have safety instructions specific to the work site and procedures.

The certificate issued may not be recognized by employers (school boards, etc) as replacing the safety courses already offered by the employer. Please verify that before making the decision as to whether you wish to take the on-line certificate course.

To complete the free e-courses check the following web site: