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WHMIS Certificates: Do they expire?

One of the most common questions relating to WHMIS certificates is, “Do they have an expiration date?” If so, how often should people be refreshing their knowledge? It appears that there is a lot of gray area on this topic.

Let’s begin by clarifying what a WHMIS certificate actually signifies. A WHMIS certificate is proof that a person has acquired a necessary level of knowledge, in order to pass a test, on a specific date. An organization will have their employees trained and issue these certificates in part to show that they are adhering to WHMIS legislation. In the event of an incident, this will help them to build their case to show that they have done their due diligence, by providing education to their employees.

The WHMIS certificate is only one part of the big picture though. Employers must provide training to their employees on how to use specific chemicals in the workplace, and regularly observe them using these chemicals in a safe and effective manner. They must also document these observations as their proof of having done so.

This brings us to the next logical question. How often does an organization need to do all of this? Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer for this. If the organization is training and testing their employees on Basic WHMIS awareness, providing hands-on training for specific chemical use in the workplace, observing the employees handling these chemicals, and recording these observations as proof – how often should they be re-training?

Workplace Health & Safety recommends annual training. Because of this, the recommendation from most trainers and Health & Safety Consultants will follow suit. Each year a new version of Basic WHMIS is released, and the new course content reflects any changes or amendments that have been made to the WHMIS legislation. This being said, it is a logical conclusion that the WHMIS certificate be valid for one year.

The bottom line is that WHMIS certification is not something that can be done once, and then abandoned. Alternatively, it should be part of an organizations ongoing occupational health & safety training program. Building knowledge among workers will not only empower them to be better at their jobs, but it will also keep them safe.

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