What does WHMIS stand for?

WHMIS is an acronym that stands for, “Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System.” It is there to provide important information on things that could impact safety and health of employees in the workplace. This system is the national workplace hazard communication standard for Canada. While it is primarily used in Canada, companies that provide goods and services across Canadian borders may also have to be familiar with it.

This program was developed through cooperation between the government agencies of federal, provincial, and territories, which helps with its widespread acceptance. In addition, this system is a part of the very popular Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.

WHMIS Symbols

The most recognizable aspect of WHMIS are the different symbols that are associated with various hazards. These symbols are taken right from the GHS standards, which is popular in countries around the world. Using the same symbols makes it a lot easier for businesses and employees to quickly recognize potential dangers. The most common symbols are as follows:

  • Compressed Gas – This is an outline of a cylinder such as those that are commonly used for storing various gasses.
  • Flammable and Combustible – This is a line representing the ground, and a flame coming up off of it.
  • Oxidizing Materials – This symbol is a circle with a black flame coming off of it.
  • Infectious or Poisonous Materials – This is one of the most recognized symbols. It is the hazardous material symbol that is commonly seen on medical waste. It could also be the iconic skull and crossbones symbol.
  • Corrosive Substances – This is a hand reaching for a black line, both of which have lines coming off of them with test tubs pouring a substance on them.
  • Dangerously Reactive Materials – This symbol is a test tube with lines coming out of it on the backdrop of a bold “R”.

Employees should be provided with training on what these symbols are, their meanings, and what type of precautions need to be taken when around them. Once they are properly trained, they will be able to work more safely in any environment where the WHMIS is followed.


View all Hazcom Q&A

Free E-Book

Hazcom Guide

Learn how to stay safe and compliant with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard.


Free E-Book

GHS Guide

A step-by-step guide to GHS compliance.


Free Samples

Get samples of our most popular products so you can see the quality before you buy.

Other FREE Resources:

Helpful Resources