Preparing for a WHMIS Inspection: A Checklist for Canadian Restaurants

A detailed checklist to help you comply with WHMIS regulations and keep your establishment safe.

WHMIS Inspection in Restaurant Kitchen
February 16, 2024

Ensuring workplace safety is a top priority for any responsible manager working in the Canadian restaurant industry. Compliance with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) is not just a legal requirement; it's a fundamental step towards safeguarding employees and customers alike. 

As a restaurant manager, it's essential for you to keep WHMIS compliance up-to-date in preparation for your next inspection. In this comprehensive guide, we'll provide a detailed checklist to streamline the process and keep your establishment safe.

Before diving into the checklist, let's quickly recap what WHMIS is all about. 

What is WHMIS?

WHMIS is Canada's official system for communicating the dangers and risks associated with hazardous substances in the workplace, and it encompasses labelling, Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and training programs. Its primary goal is to keep everyone informed about potential dangers, from commercial kitchens to food production facilities.

Federal and provincial legislation mandates the implementation of WHMIS procedures across a wide variety of workplaces to protect the well-being of employees and customers.

WHMIS Legislation

WHMIS legislation was introduced in 1988 to create a standardized approach to communicating information about hazardous materials in Canadian workplaces. 

In 2015, the law was amended to align more closely with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Further amendments were made in 2022.

Key Components of WHMIS Legislation

WHMIS legislation is made up of three major components, each playing a crucial role in ensuring safety:

  • Labelling Requirements: Clear communication of hazards through standardized labels containing product identifiers, pictograms, signal words and supplier information.
  • Education and Training: Mandatory WHMIS training for all employees who handle hazardous materials, covering legal obligations, hazard classification, labelling interpretation, SDS navigation and emergency procedures.
  • Safety Data Sheets (SDSs): Accessible documents containing comprehensive information about hazardous substances, including composition, health implications, safety precautions, and storage guidelines.

Enforcement of WHMIS Legislation in Canada

WHMIS is enforced through federal and provincial regulations, with specific agencies assigned to monitor compliance. Federal workplaces are governed by the Labour Branch of Human Resources Development Canada, whereas provincial occupational health and safety agencies oversee non-federal workplaces (including restaurants).

Legal Consequences of Non-Compliance

At a provincial level, failing to comply with WHMIS legislation can lead to severe penalties, including fines, imprisonment and forced business closures.

There is also the prospect of civil lawsuits being filed against you if your business is deemed liable for any accidents, injuries or illnesses that occur as a direct result of a WHMIS violation. For example, a restaurant could end up being sued if a customer suffers an illness resulting from chemical contamination of food.

Checklist: Preparing for a WHMIS Inspection

Now that we've outlined WHMIS legislation's core components, let's explore our pre-inspection checklist in more detail so that you are well-prepared for when the time comes.

1. Labelling Compliance

  • Verify that all hazardous products are clearly labelled with WHMIS symbols and all required information.
  • Ensure workplace labels are accurately applied when decanting hazardous substances.
  • Regularly inspect labels for clarity and legibility.

2. Employee Training

  • Confirm that all staff members have undergone WHMIS training and possess valid WHMIS Certificates.
  • Schedule refresher courses as needed to keep employees updated on safety protocols.
  • Maintain records of training sessions and certifications for inspection purposes.

3. Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)

  • Organize SDSs in a centralized location that is easily accessible to all employees.
  • Ensure SDSs are up-to-date and readily available for consultation.
  • Train employees on how to interpret SDS information effectively.

4. Emergency Preparedness

  • Develop and communicate clear procedures for responding to chemical spills, exposures or other emergencies.
  • Conduct regular drills to practice emergency protocols and ensure staff readiness.
  • Keep emergency contact information readily available in case of urgent situations.

5. Documentation and Record-Keeping

  • Maintain accurate records of WHMIS training, SDSs, and incident reports.
  • Store documentation in an organized manner for easy retrieval during inspections.
  • Regularly review and update records to reflect any changes or updates in procedures.

6. Regular Audits and Inspections

  • Conduct internal audits to assess WHMIS compliance and identify areas for improvement.
  • Schedule routine inspections by designated authorities to ensure regulatory adherence.
  • Address any issues or deficiencies promptly and implement corrective actions as necessary.

Taking a Proactive Approach to WHMIS Compliance

Creating a safety culture is crucial for long-term success when it comes to WHMIS compliance. Here are some additional steps to promote hazard awareness throughout your establishment:

  • Lead by example and prioritize safety in all aspects of operations.
  • Encourage employee participation and feedback regarding hazard management.
  • Host regular safety meetings to discuss WHMIS protocols and address employee concerns.
  • Recognize and reward employees for their commitment to safety.
  • Offer ongoing training opportunities to keep staff informed about WHMIS updates and best practices.

Next Steps

By following this comprehensive checklist and adopting a proactive approach to safety, you can ensure that your establishment is well-prepared for WHMIS inspections and, more importantly, create a safer environment for everyone.

Put your WHMIS plan into action before violations occur. Maintain accurate records, stay up-to-date with the latest developments in hazardous material management, and ensure staff have access to professional WHMIS training.

WHMIS Training

In order to obtain WHMIS certification in Canada, restaurant workers must participate in an accredited training program. You can help your employees become certified by signing them up for WHMIS training provided by the Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS).

CIFS offers reliable and convenient WHMIS courses designed to equip your team with the knowledge and skills to safely handle hazardous materials, protecting themselves and those they serve.

The Canadian Institute of Food Safety (CIFS) provides essential training and resources for businesses looking to optimize food and chemical safety. Get in touch today and embark on your journey to a safer workplace.