Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University


Partially exempted products

Partially exempted products are those already covered by other federal labelling legislation and therefore exempted from federal WHMIS requirements for labels and MSDS's. These products fall into the following classes:

  1. Restricted products packaged for consumer use
  2. Cosmetics and prescription drugs
  3. Explosives
  4. Pesticides
  5. Radioactive substances

While employers are not required to re-label containers storing these products, they must still deliver training on safe handling, and apply workplace labels when products are used in the work environment or transferred to different containers. If MSDS sheets are available, they are to be provided. A brief explanation of the type of product one would find in these categories follows:

Consumer Goods

The partial exemption for consumer goods applies to restricted products packaged for sale to consumers through the retail system. Some examples are bleaches or cleansers containing chlorine, a corrosive chemical such as hydrochloric [muriatic] acid, turpentine, and furniture paints with more than half percent lead by weight.


In order for a cosmetic to qualify for an exemption under WHMIS, it must be represented for use as a cosmetic. If sold for another use, it falls under WHMIS requirements. For example, the chemical acetone is excluded from WHMIS when sold in a nail polish remover, but included when sold or used as an industrial solvent. Similar requirements apply to prescription drugs. Formaldehyde would be excluded when used as a preservative in a medicinal product, but would fall under WHMIS requirements when used as an industrial preservative. These products are regulated by the Food and Drug Act which is administered by Health and Welfare Canada.


Explosives and blasting agents are excluded from WHMIS because they are regulated by the Explosives Act and Regulations, which is administered by the federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Where the substances ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel are mixed and manufactured as an explosive blasting agent [i.e. Amex ] it would be exempted from WHMIS When these products are used individually at an industrial operation, then the various WHMIS requirements would apply.


Pesticides are also defined in terms of intended use. For example, Stoddard solvent is a herbicide that is also used as an industrial solvent. When sold or used as a solvent, the WHMIS requirements would apply. Pesticides are regulated by the Pest Control Products Act, which is administered by Agriculture Canada.

Radioactive Substances

These are a small group of substances which are strictly controlled and are used primarily in medicine, dentistry and non-destructive testing. They have a high potential for causing injury to human tissue and organs. The transportation and use of these materials are governed by the Atomic Energy Control Act which is administered by the Atomic Energy Control Board.

Completely exempted products

These products are exempted from both federal and provincial WHMIS requirements:

  1. Wood and products made of wood
  2. Manufactured articles
  3. Tobacco and products made of tobacco
  4. Goods handled, offered for transport and transported under the Transportation of Dangerous Act conditions or requirements when taken into the workplace WHMIS requirements would apply.

A brief explanation of the types of products you could expect to would find in these categories follows:

NOTE: The requirements for employers to provide employee training remains intact with these products if they present a potential health hazard to employees. In B.C. other Industrial Health and Safety Regulations [I.H.& S. Regs] may apply to the use of any substance in the workplace.

Wood and Products Made of Wood

Examples of products that are completely exempt from WHMIS are wood or wood products, including lumber, plywood, particle board, sawdust and wood products coated with additives such as paints or preservatives.

These additives however, may be subject to WHMIS before they are included in the finished product.

Turpentine and tall oil — made from the chemical components of wood, but lacking the properties of wood - are not considered products made of wood and are therefore subject to WHMIS.

Manufactured Articles

A "manufactured article" is any item formed to a specific shape or design with an intended use that depends on that shape or design, and will not expose people to a controlled product under normal conditions of use. Examples include refrigerators [which contain refrigerant gases], vehicles, precut threaded piping, etc.

However welding rods are not classed as manufactured articles because, although they are produced by a manufacturer and conform to a specific design, during use they release controlled products in the form of smoke and fumes.

Sheets of friction material containing asbestos and produced to be cut later or shaped to make specific products, are also not considered as manufactured articles.

Tobacco and Products made of Tobacco

Self explanatory as to type. These products are loosely governed by other federal legislation.

Transportation of Dangerous Goods (T.D.G.)

This would include any product which is handled or transported under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act or Regulations. For example, chemicals shipped by tank truck would be bound by the T.D.G. Act and Regs. while in transit, but once unloaded at a work site they would be subject to WHMIS requirements.

We have seen and discussed the classification symbols used to identify WHMIS products. There are other symbols that may be encountered on product labels which are put there to meet other legislated requirements. They may be similar in appearance to WHMIS, or quite different. They are all intended to protect workers and provide safety information.

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