Meet Mike the WHMIS Expert
As a part of our free Learning Series, on Wednesday April 15th, we hosted a webinar titled WHMIS and GHS – An Introduction to the Transition. This webinar provided attendees with a greater understanding of the new legislated transition to incorporate the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) into Canada’s Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS). Our featured expert for this session was Michael Phibbs, President & CEO of Chemscape Safety Technologies. Chemscape Safety Technologies is a leader in SDS and hazardous chemical management solutions aiming to provide the most up-to-date chemical safety training.
Before you rush off to watch the webinar, we wanted to introduce Michael, provide information on his background and experience, and showcase what drives him to promote chemical safety and awareness.
Michael (Mike) Phibbs is a Certified Industrial Hygienist by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene, and a Registered Occupational Hygienist by the Canadian Registration Board of Occupational Hygienists. He obtained a Master’s of Business Administration from the Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and is currently the chair of the American Industrial Hygiene Association Control Banding Working Group. His varied experience and impressive knowledge have made him a great resource and he has presented for the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering, American Industrial Hygiene Association, and Enform’s Petroleum Safety Conference.
Mike and his consulting company have authored thousands of MSDSs since 1989. In 2010, Mike was trained to classify and author GHS Safety Data Sheets (SDSs; the GHS equivalent of MSDSs) in anticipation of the implementation of GHS legislation. Mike’s work also led him to being instrumental in the creation of Enform’s Controlling Chemical Hazards guideline. Mike and Chemscape developed and currently host a related online tool that uses control banding to assist in adherence to this guideline (control banding is an industrial hygiene method that is concerned with controlling, rather than measuring, hazards). This tool enables industry to complete health risk assessments on chemicals. It then produces control approaches explained in guidance documents to protect workers’ health.
Mike lives in Calgary with his family and when he isn’t helping people be safe around chemicals he enjoys skiing and fly fishing – catch him casting a line along the Bow River in Calgary or at the shores of the Old Man River in Southern Alberta.
WHMIS and GHS, or the WHMIS 2015 Transition, in Mike’s words: “After more than 25 years WHMIS has evolved and, after much deliberation, adopted a global classification scheme. The old style symbols, labels, and MSDSs are being transitioned out to make way for new ones. GHS, or the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, has taken many years to negotiate at many levels. Suppliers have to take the initial steps in reclassifying products, relabelling, and creating Safety Data Sheets or SDSs to replace MSDSs. There is a defined structure in the labels and SDSs that enables, and almost promotes, a preferable method to train. It’s also important to note that there are five simple concepts of how workers should isolate pertinent information on the long SDS documents to efficiently protect themselves.”
We asked Mike some questions to learn more about him and his opinion on some relevant topics:
In your opinion what is the most important aspect of chemical safety?
Do you think incorporating GHS Standards into WHMIS is a positive change?
What is your favourite part of being President and CEO of Chemscape?
What inspired you to address chemical safety online?
I have an uncommon skill set and history, technically and in business; first, as an Industrial Hygienist on a pipeline, then as an MSDS author responsible for up to 4000 chemicals. I needed to work with scalable systems to be effective. While authoring MSDSs I needed to consider customers’ needs and the regulations they had to live with. I recognized that MSDS management is not about MSDSs but rather about protecting people and sometimes reporting to management or using the data so companies can make mandatory reports. All too often health and safety programs are really just safety programs; adding health is a significant accomplishment that I wanted to help companies achieve.
We do this by creating easy to use systems that deliver both MSDSs and health topics for safety meetings directly related to chemicals in a company’s inventory. Our SmartCharts summarize exactly what prevention measures need to be in place to work with a chemical, and through our Exposure Control Plans we have helped clients look at how to protect workers in a scalable fashion and meet regulations they previously struggled to meet.
To increase education I also wanted to explore online training but there were already many systems. I was reluctant to enter this realm until I could make a significant difference. I recognized by having the SDSs, workplace labels, health lists, Emergency Response Guides, ongoing training – and with the implementation of GHS – it was time to enter this market. Our key difference is we ensure users know how to find SDSs; this is a key point that other courses have ignored as they assume that the SDSs will always be readily available.
What do you think will be the main benefit of your webinar?
Chemscape has recognized an opportunity to offer more than basic education online by adding several key steps to a WHMIS program beyond the standard online education packages. Using in-depth knowledge of how chemical information should be used in the workplace and how to extract data from MSDSs, Chemscape presents this information in different ways so people can think about things in different ways. Learn more about Chemscape by visiting their website today: www.chemscape.com.