McMaster University

McMaster University

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WHMIS and Chemical Handling

Chemical Handling and Identification

A good chemical management program will require implementation of the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). The WHMIS requirements in Ontario are identified in Regulation 860 made under the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA).

McMaster's safety program related to hazardous materials is RMM501 - Hazardous Materials Management System including WHMIS Program

A WHMIS program consists of three basic elements: supplier & workplace labels, Safety Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and employee training.

  1. Labels are required on containers of WHMIS controlled products.
    • Suppliers must attach a Supplier Label to any WHMIS controlled product. This will come on the bottles as you purchase them.
    • If a chemical is decanted into an unlabeled container, you must affix a Workplace Label to the container - in this case the label is 'secondary container label'.
    • If you create mixtures, you must affix labeling which indicates (1) mixture name, (2) safe handling procedures and PPE and (3) a reference back to the 'recipe binder' to obtain information from all SDSs of the mixture components.
  2. Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are required in a workplace for each WHMIS controlled product.
  3. WHMIS training is required for each employee within the FHS. WHMIS 2015 training is offered through the MOSAIC system. The course code is WHMS15.

The Ministry of Labour administers the WHMIS Regulation and they offer a Guide to the WHMIS Legislation.

Fume Hoods

Fume hoods are required when there is a risk of inhalation of hazardous materials. Fume hoods are ducted into an exhaust ventilation system and managed by building services for your building. Your lab may have purchased a separate, ductless fume hood, in which case the hazardous materials are filtered through a charcoal filter that your lab must replace according to manufacturer's instructions. Spent filters must be disposed through the chemical waste disposal process.

Your laboratory may also use custom local exhaust ventilation (LEV) for specific use. These include custom cabinets, snorkels, downdraft tables and necropsy unit. For detailed information on fume hoods and LEV, please visit our fume hood page.

Chemical Storage

Flammable Cabinets

Flammable cabinets are required to store flammable chemicals. These may be solids or liquids. Flammable cabinets are provided in laboratory spaces when a new investigator arrives. The addition or removal of flammable cabinets will be at the cost of the researcher. For detailed information on flammable cabinets, please visit our flammable cabinets page.

Chemical Storage in Cold Units

Some chemicals are required to be stored at near or subzero temperatures. In these cases, they are stored in specialized, non-domestic cold units such as fridges and freezers. Lab refrigerators must have their electrical components, which provide a source of ignition, separated from inner cabinet. Ensure your cold units are rated for storage of flammable and other hazardous chemicals. For assistance, email

Corrosives Cabinets

Use of corrosives requires storage in corrosives cabinets. Labs should not purchase more corrosives than can be used up in 6 months. Please adhere to the following requirements:

  • Chemicals must be segregated according to chemical storage guidelines provided in the Laboratory Manual.
  • All storage areas containing corrosive materials must be appropriately labeled as CORROSIVE-ACID or CORROSIVE-BASE.
  • Corrosive materials are to be stored in a cool, dry location away from direct sunlight.
  • Corrosive materials should be stored in properly vented cabinets.
  • Do not store containers of corrosive liquids above shoulder level.
  • Secondary containment such as a high-density polyethylene containment liner, tub or spill tray must be used when storing corrosive materials.
  • Separate secondary containment trays, polyethylene or rubber bottle carriers may be required to segregate highly hazardous or reactive corrosive materials from each other.
  • Storage areas should be inspected regularly for any changes, including corrosion, leaking, crystallization or deposition around lids.

Highly Used Chemicals

Please forward us a list of the chemicals you order most frequently that are physical hazards (flammable, corrosive, oxidizing, explosive or toxic). Verify on your GHS pictograms.

Chemical Spills

Chemical spill procedures are found in RMM 1202 - Spills to the Environment - Emergency Response and Reporting Program and the 2019 McMaster Lab Manual.

Laboratory workers are expected to be competent to clean up any volume of spill of the hazardous materials they use for their work activity. For example, if a worker handles 1L of E coli culture, they must be able to clean up a spill of 1L of E coli culture. For example if a worker handles 500mL of ethanol, they must be able to clean up a spill of 500mL of ethanol.


Updated 2022-04-29

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