Chemical safety

SFU has a comprehensive chemical safety program that applies to all areas where hazardous chemical agents are used, stored or handled.

WHMIS 2015

The Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) consists of legislation at the federal, provincial and territorial levels to ensure all Canadian workers receive health and safety information about hazardous products in the workplace. WHMIS was updated in 2015 and is currently known as WHMIS 2015 to differentiate from the previous version of WHMIS dating from 1988.

Transition from WHMIS 1988 to WHMIS 2015

With the transition to WHMIS 2015 complete as of December 1, 2018, all SFU employees who conduct work in a lab with chemicals must complete the following checklist:

  • Complete WHMIS 2015 training,
  • Ensure access to WHMIS 2015 Safety data sheets, and
  • Ensure all hazardous product labels comply with WHMIS 2015

Components of WHMIS 2015

See below for more information about the components of WHMIS 2015.

Hazard classification and pictograms

WHMIS 2015 defines two major groups of hazards: physical and health. In each hazards group, there are several specific hazard classes, which can be further broken down into categories (or types) and sub-categories, representing levels of severity.

Most hazard classes and categories or types have a prescribed pictogram. Pictograms relate to the severity of the hazard. For example, the hazard class Flammable liquids, category 1, 2 or 3 will have the ‘flame’ pictogram, but Flammable liquid, category 4, will not.


All hazardous products in the workplace must be labelled. It is also advisable to label non-hazardous products in the laboratory to ensure everyone knows what is hazardous and what is not.

A supplier label must appear on all products distributed or sold in Canada and is the responsibility of the supplier or manufacturer.

A workplace label is the responsibility of the users of the product and is applied in the following situations:

  • chemicals are transferred from their original container
  • solutions or compounds are prepared in the lab
  • original supplier label is missing or illegible

The workplace label must contain the following elements:

  1. product identifier
  2. safe handling information (e.g., hazards associated with the product and basic precautions)
  3. referral to the Safety data sheet

Safety data sheets (SDSs)

Previously called Material Safety Data Sheets, SDSs are detailed technical documents created by the manufacturer or supplier of a hazardous product. Electronic or paper copies should be accessible in your lab for every hazardous product used or stored there.

Each SDS is valid for 3 years, so if you keep paper copies, be sure to update them.

SFU subscribes to the online SDS service offered by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). Access the CCOHS SDS database using the link at the top of this page.

CCOHS covers an extensive list of suppliers with the notable exception of Sigma-Aldrich products. The SDSs from this supplier can be found at

Education and training

All SFU employees who work where hazardous products are used, stored or handled must receive training and education related to WHMIS 2015. Basic background information is provided by EHS through an online module available on Canvas (see link at at top of page).

Users of WHMIS products must also receive lab-specific training and education from their supervisor about:

  • safe use, storage, handling and disposal of the hazardous product or products
  • procedures to follow if the hazardous products were to release or spill
  • procedures to follow in case of an emergency involving the hazardous products