WHMIS Symbols versus GHS Pictograms – What is the difference?

 In Product Safety, SDS: Safety Data Sheets

By: Kirsten Alcock, Manager of Product Safety, email

The terminology WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Information System) symbols and pictograms seems to be thrown around out there so let’s dive a little more and help clarify the confusion. When we referred in the past to WHMIS symbols, they were indicative of the older WHMIS 1988 hazard symbols which were found in Schedule II of the Controlled Products Regulations (CPR). If you’ve been in the business of chemical regulations in Canada for many years, you’ll remember that these symbols were circular, black and white, and they were used for Class A through Class F. The label was enclosed within a demarcated hatched border. Within the symbol was a picture that was indicative of the classification.

If you see these symbols on your current labels or SDSs intended for use in Canada, please ensure that you update your SDS and labels immediately. These symbols were revoked when the GHS regulations came into effect in Canada.

When the new regulations came into effect in Canada, we moved over to a different set of symbol requirements.  These are referred to as Symbols and Pictograms and under the new Hazardous Products Regulations (HPR), they can be found in Schedule 3 of our current regulations.  There are some consistencies between the two as far as some of the ‘picture’ requirements but you will now notice that they are no longer within a circle and there is the colour component red to them (note biohazardous infectious materials stays within a circle).  In these new regulations, there are different symbols available for us to use such as the health hazard.

whmis symbols ghs

If you have any questions regarding WHMIS symbol/pictogram requirements, do not hesitate to contact us.  We can help you convert your older MSDSs into SDSs that use the appropriate symbol not only on your SDS but also on your labels.  Contact us for further information on how we can help you meet GHS label requirements.

Dell Tech
Kirsten Alcock, B.Sc. (Hons) 
Manager, Product Safety Group

Dell Tech has provided professional, confidential consulting services to the chemical specialty

industry in Canada, the USA, Europe, and Asia for the last 40 years.

Contact us today for more information.



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