Hazard Groups

Hazardous products can be harmful to your health if you do not limit your exposure to them. As you handle these materials, you’ll need to know whether they are health hazards or physical hazards.

  • A health hazard is the ability of a chemical to affect your health quickly (i.e., burn) or over a long period of time (i.e., cancer or lead poisoning).
    • Short-term effects: some chemical products can cause immediate harm, called acute effects. For example, sulfuric acid will burn your skin or your eyes.
    • Long-term effects: if the chemicals take longer to do their damage, the effects are chronic. It may take hours, days, years, or even decades before you become aware of any problems.
  • A physical hazard is a sudden reaction such as a fire, explosion or corrosion. Physical hazards are controlled by handling chemicals properly.

Note: GHS also defines an Environmental hazards group. This group (and its classes) has not been adopted in WHMIS 2015. However, you may see the environmental classes listed on labels and SDSs. Including information about environmental hazards is allowed by WHMIS 2015.