WHMIS Symbols

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WHMIS Symbols

WHMIS uses a classification system to indicate specific hazards and properties of products. There are six main classes and some sub- classes. Each has a corresponding symbol that workers should be able to easily recognize.

Some materials may have more than one symbol. For example, propane is a compressed gas that burns easily so it would have two hazard symbols: one for compressed gas and one for flammable and combustible material.

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CLASS A: COMPRESSED GAS

• Contents are under high pressure
• Cylinder may explode or burst when heated or dropped

Some examples are: compressed air, carbon dioxide, propane and welding gasses.
Because many gasses are compressed by being cooled, heat can cause the gas to expand and its container could explode. Dropping a cylinder of compressed gas may cause it to torpedo at high speed. Damaged cylinders may leak very cold gas that could cause frostbite on contact with skin (for example, carbon dioxide or propane).

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CLASS B: FLAMMABLE AND COMBUSTIBLE MATERIAL

• May catch fire when exposed to heat, spark or flame.
• May burst into flames.

Some examples are propane, butane, kerosene, ethanol, toluene, and spray paints
“Flammable” means the material will burn or catch fire easily at “normal” temperatures (below 37.8 ◦ C or 100◦ F). Reactive flammable materials might suddenly start burning or produce flammable gas if they come into contact with air or water.
“Combustible” means the material will catch fire when heated above “normal”.

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CLASS C: OXIDIZING MATERIAL

• May cause fire or explosion when in contact with wood, fuels or other combustible materials.

Some examples are: oxygen and ozone in gaseous states, nitric acid, sodium chlorite.
Oxidizing materials do not usually burn themselves, but they can help a fire by producing oxygen to fuel it or they may cause other materials to suddenly catch on fire. In some cases, no other source of ignition, such as a spark or flame, is necessary. The organic peroxide family of gasses is especially hazardous as they are combustible themselves and produce oxygen to fuel the fire.

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CLASS D: POISONOUS AND INFECTIOUS MATERIAL
Division 1: Materials Causing Immediate and Serious Toxic Effects

• Poisonous substance
• A single exposure may be fatal or cause serious or permanent health damage.

Some examples are: carbon monoxide, sodium cyanide, sulphuric acid, toluene-2
These materials are immediately dangerous to life and health. They may cause burns, loss of consciousness, coma and/or death within minutes or a few hours. Many materials in this class also have long- term health effects which may not be noticed for months or even years after exposure.

 

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CLASS D: POISONOUS AND INFECTIOUS MATERIAL
Division 2: Materials Causing Other Toxic Effects

• Poisonous substance.
• May cause irritation.
• Repeated exposure may cause cancer, birth defects, or other permanent damage.

Some examples are: asbestos fibres, mercury, benzene, quartz silica (or “silica dust”), lead
These are poisonous materials and their effects are not always immediate or permanent. Some of them may have very serious long- term health consequences such as cancer, reproductive problems, genetic changes, or allergies.
Note: This division has two subclasses, D2A (very toxic) and D2B (toxic). Suppliers and employers may indicate these subclasses but it is not a legal requirement for the WHMIS label or the MSDS to include these designations.

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CLASS D: POISONOUS AND INFECTIOUS MATERIAL
Division 3: Biohazardous Infectious MATERIAL

• May cause disease or serious illness.
• Drastic exposure may result in death.

Some examples are: AIDS/HIV virus, Hepatitis B and salmonella
These materials are organisms that may cause disease in people and animals either by themselves or through the toxins they produce. They may live in body tissues or fluids (such as blood or urine) so PPE should be used whenever workers could be in contact with body tissues or fluids. See the module Sharps and Biohazards for more information.

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CLASS E: CORROSIVE MATERIAL

• Can cause burns to eyes, skin or respiratory system.

Some examples are: sulphuric acid, nitric acid, caustic soda, ammonia gas, and nitrogen dioxide
Corrosive materials can cause severe burns to skin and other tissues such as the eyes and lungs and can eat away clothes and other materials including metal. Their effects are permanent.

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CLASS F: DANGEROUSLY REACTIVE MATERIAL

• May react violently causing explosion, fire or release of toxic gasses when exposed to light, heat, vibration or extreme temperatures.

Some examples are: ethylene oxide, ethyl acrylate, picric acid and anhydrous aluminum chloride.
Dangerously reactive materials are most often described as “unstable” and can do at least one of the following:

• It can react strongly and quickly with water to make a toxic gas
• It reacts with itself if it gets bumped or dropped or if its pressure or temperature increases
• It can join to itself (polymerization), break down (decompose) or lose extra water so that it becomes more dense (condensation).

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