Understanding 10 Canadian WHMIS 2015 Symbols


WHMIS, or Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, is crucial for safety in Canadian workplaces. It mandates proper labelling of hazardous products per the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Employers must ensure the correct labelling of all dangerous products entering the workplace.

WHMIS pictograms convey essential information about product risks vital for the safety of workers in dangerous environments. Professional WHMIS training is key for employees to understand these symbols and adopt necessary safety measures for properly using and handling hazardous products. This blog highlights the ten types of WHMIS labels and explains their symbols, providing valuable insights for creating a safer work environment.

Flame Symbols #1

You might be familiar with the safety symbol depicting a flame and a line below it. This WHMIS label signifies that the product poses a fire hazard, implying it can easily catch fire and combust rapidly if not handled properly. Attach this symbol to flammable products and materials with the potential for combustion or thermal decomposition.

To safeguard against this hazard:

  1. Store the products away from heat, hot surfaces, or open flames.
  2. Avoid smoking near hazardous products.
  3. Only use these products in well-ventilated areas.

Flame Over Circle Symbols #2

The symbol displays an “o” with a flame above and a line below. The “o” represents oxygen. This WHMIS hazard symbol signifies that improper product storage and handling may lead to a fire or explosion.

This label encompasses three physical hazard groups in WHMIS: oxidizing gases (Category 1), oxidizing liquids (Category 1, 2, 3), and oxidizing solids (Category 1, 2, 3). Although the physical states differ, all three oxidizer hazard classes present a risk of fire or explosion. It is crucial to handle and store these hazardous products with care.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  • Wearing protective gloves and clothing to minimize physical contact.
  • Removing all combustible wastes from the work area.
  • Exercising caution when mixing oxidizers with water, as it may lead to volatile results.

Exploding Bomb Symbols #3

The WHMIS safety symbol features an exploding bomb, signalling a severe fire and explosion hazard from the materials. Due to their high reactivity and volatility, such products are seldom used in typical workplaces. Items labelled with this symbol require meticulous management and storage under strict supervision, and specialized health and safety training is essential.

How to protect yourself:

  • Separate these products during storage to prevent large clusters or high-density collections.
  • Limit prolonged storage, especially with substantial quantities.
  • Exercise caution, as even empty containers may retain hazardous residue.

Compressed Gas Symbols #4

This WHMIS safety symbol illustrates a gas cylinder and is assigned to hazardous products containing compressed gases, such as dissolved gas, compressed gas, liquefied gas, and refrigerated liquefied gas. These gases can be intentionally released by opening the cylinder valve or accidentally through a broken or leaky valve.

Compressed gases are hazardous due to their highly pressurized state, posing a risk of severe injuries and damage if the cylinder is unsecured and breaks, spinning out of control with great force. Refrigerated liquefied gases, on the other hand, are extremely cold, potentially causing cryogenic burns or other freezing injuries.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Using the smallest amount of compressed gas needed for the task.
  2. Regularly inspecting cylinder containers and valves for physical damage.
  3. Ensuring all valves are properly closed when the cylinder container is not in use.

Corrosion Symbols #5

This WHMIS hazard symbol shows corrosive liquid dripping onto a hand and another onto a piece of metal. Products marked with this symbol have the potential to destroy or damage metals and can cause permanent bodily harm, including blisters, scarring, burns, or vision loss. Due to these items’ toxicity, following proper storage and handling procedures is crucial.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Inspecting the products for leaks or damages before handling them.
  2. Always washing your hands thoroughly after handling the products.
  3. Avoiding the mixture of hot water with corrosive products.

Skull and Crossbones Symbols #6

This WHMIS hazard symbol displays a human skull and two crossed bones, representing that the product can cause poisoning or death. Exposure to toxicity may occur through oral consumption, inhalation, or skin contact. Products categorized as Category 1 and Category 2 in terms of toxicity can be fatal if swallowed, inhaled, or touched.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Avoiding eating, drinking, or smoking when handling these hazardous products.
  2. Keeping surfaces clean and preventing the accumulation of dust in the workplace.
  3. Performing standard first aid procedures if symptoms are detected.

Exclamation Mark Symbols #7

The exclamation mark in this WHMIS safety symbol signals that a product is dangerous and can lead to health consequences, including eye irritation, skin allergy responses, and organ toxicity. It is also occasionally used to indicate products harmful to the ozone layer.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Ensuring workplace surfaces are not contaminated by unprotected staff.
  2. Avoid wearing contaminated clothing outside of the work area.
  3. Reporting any signs of illness immediately to the supervisor.

Health Hazard Symbols #8

This symbol displays a black silhouette of a person’s chest and head, with a white star extending from the middle of the chest. The WHMIS label signifies that a product is highly hazardous and may lead to serious long-term health effects, such as carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, and organ damage after single or prolonged exposure. Other health effects may also manifest over time.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Reducing skin exposure to dangerous products.
  2. Promptly reporting workplace leaks and spills.
  3. Using protective clothing, eye gear, and respiratory protection.

Environment Symbols #9

This symbol shows a leafless tree and a lifeless fish, indicating potential harm to the environment. While not mandatory, a supplier might voluntarily include this symbol in labelling and classification.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Following proper recycling practices in your workplace.
  2. Minimizing the release of harmful substances into the environment.
  3. Disposing of products through approved waste management channels, avoiding dumping into drains or bodies of water.

Biohazardous Infectious Materials Symbols #10

Characterized by a black circular border, this label features the letter ‘c’ linked three times over a small circle in the centre. The WHMIS hazard symbol signifies materials suspected of causing infections in humans and animals, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.

Protect yourself from this hazard by:

  1. Restricting product handling to trained personnel.
  2. Implementing infection control measures to reduce exposure to potential disease sources.
  3. Using ultraviolet light for workplace disinfection.

In conclusion, understanding and recognizing WHMIS symbols are crucial for maintaining a safe and secure work environment. Global Hazmat is the premier provider, offering comprehensive training and resources to equip businesses with the knowledge needed for effective hazard communication. Our commitment to safety extends beyond mere compliance – it’s about fostering a workplace culture where every employee feels confident and secure.

Choose Global Hazmat for your WHMIS training needs, and let’s build a safer tomorrow together. Your safety is our priority.

Contact us.