When people hear about hazardous materials in the workplace, they typically think of heavy industrial settings, like factories, or laboratories that deal with chemicals. Many workers in Ontario don’t realize that office workers need WHMIS training as well.
Believe it or not, the typical office environment can contain many hazardous materials that could put employees at risk if not handled properly.
Why Office Workers Need WHMIS Training
Some of the hazardous materials typically found in an office environment include:
- Aerosol cans: pressurized cans, like the compressed air used to clean computers, can explode when exposed to heat.
- Printer ink cartridges: toner ink contains a carcinogenic dust called Carbon Black.
- Carbon monoxide: photocopiers using toner ink can overheat and emit carbon monoxide.
- Batteries: battery acid contains a number of hazardous materials, including cadmium and mercury.
- Paint: many paints contain volatile organic compounds that are hazardous in a poorly-ventilated area.
- Cleaning products: commercial cleaners often contain sodium hydrochloride and are highly caustic.
Whenever a workplace is in an environment that contains hazardous materials, the employees should receive training on how to safely handle those materials. While the above materials may seem benign, they could all pose a serious health hazard if not used properly, and employers can be held liable for employee injuries and illnesses that result from hazardous materials.
The standard for hazardous materials training in Ontario is WHMIS.
What is WHMIS in Ontario?
WHMIS stands for the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, Canada’s national standard for labelling and handling hazardous products in the workplace. The system is designed to ensure consistency in the information that employers and employees receive in order to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Classification system for chemical or biological products that are hazardous
- Labelling system that provides information about how to safely use hazardous products
- Safety Data Sheets with in-depth information about hazardous products
- Training programs for employees to help them understand WHIMIS classifications, labels, and safety data sheets
What WHIMIS Training Includes in Ontario
Employers and employees can get help from organizations like PSHSA for workplace hazard material information systems training in Ontario. WHMIS training programs are structured to teach the following competencies regarding handling hazardous materials:
- Legal responsibilities of employers, workers and supervisors when it comes to hazardous materials in the workplace
- Identifying hazardous products in the workplace
- Understanding the WHMIS pictograms that warn workers of hazardous materials
- Understanding the information contained on safety data sheets
- Understanding the importance of WHMIS as part of workplace health and safety overall