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Breaking Down HazCom Label Elements

OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard requires labels on shipped containers of hazardous chemicals to contain specific information.

By: Rachel KrubsackContributor

Pictograms are used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical. © kittisak – stock.adobe.com

Thousands of chemicals are used and produced in workplaces every day. These chemicals pose a wide range of health hazards (such as skin or eye irritation) and physical hazards (such as flammability). OSHA’s Hazard Communication (HazCom) Standard is designed to ensure that information about these hazards and associated protective measures is passed from chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors to downstream users of the chemicals.

Labels serve as an immediate warning of a chemical’s hazards and a summary of the more detailed information provided in safety data sheets (SDSs). Chemical manufacturers, importers or distributors must classify a chemical’s physical and health hazards according to the criteria in Appendices A and B of 1910.1200, and they use that information to prepare SDSs and labels on shipped containers of hazardous chemicals.

LABELS ON SHIPPED CONTAINERS

Labels on shipped containers of hazardous chemicals must contain the following elements:

  1. Product Identifier: This is how the hazardous chemical is identified, such as its chemical name or batch number. The same product identifier must be on the label, in Section 1 of the corresponding SDS, and the list of hazardous chemicals in the employer’s written HazCom program.
  2. Signal Word: This indicates how severe the hazard is. Only two words may be used as signal words: Danger and Warning. Danger is used for more severe hazards within a specific hazard class, and Warning is used for less severe hazards. No matter how many hazards a chemical has, there will only be one signal word on the label.
  3. Hazard Statement(s): These statements describe the nature of the chemical’s hazard(s). For example, “Harmful if swallowed.” They are specific to the hazard classification categories found in Appendices A and B of 1910.1200, so chemical users should always see the same hazards no matter what the chemical is or who produces it.
  4. Precautionary Statement(s): These statements describe recommended steps for safely using, handling and storing the chemical. There are four types of precautionary statements:
    1. Prevention (to minimize exposure)
    2. Response (in case of accidental spillage or exposure emergency response and first aid)
    3. Storage
    4. Disposal
    For example, “Keep away from heat. Keep away from clothing and other combustible materials. Take any precaution to avoid mixing with combustibles. Wear protective neoprene gloves, safety goggles and face shield with chin guard. Wear fire/flame resistant clothing. Do not breathe dust or mists. Wash arms, hands and face thoroughly after handling. Store locked up. Dispose of contents and container in accordance with local, state and federal regulations.”
    Where a chemical is classified for a number of hazards and the precautionary statements are similar, the most stringent statements must be included on the label.
  1. Pictograms: These graphic symbols are used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical. On shipped containers, pictograms consist of a red diamond with a black hazard symbol on a white background. On workplace (or in-plant) labels only, pictograms may have a black border, rather than a red border. There are eight pictograms used to meet HazCom labeling requirements:
    You may also see labels with an environmental pictogram to convey environmental hazards, although its use is not required by the HazCom standard.
  1. Name, Address and Telephone Number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party. The responsible party is someone who can provide more information on the chemical and explain what to do in case of an emergency.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION

The label producer may provide additional instructions or information that it deems helpful, such as what personal protective equipment (PPE) may be needed when handling the chemical. Other supplementary information may include hazards not otherwise classified (HNOC), directions of use, expiration date, or fill date.

Labels must be legible and prominently displayed. While label information must be in English, other languages may be added to aid in worker understanding. WMHS

Rachel Krubsack is an Editor on the Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) team at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Rachel edits two manuals – OSHA Rules for General Industry and Hazard Communication Compliance. She also contributes content to the J. J. Keller® Safety Management Suite and Compliance Network platforms, as well as industry publications. Her topics of expertise include hazard communication, hearing conservation and OSHA general industry training requirements. In 2023, she completed OSHA 30 training for general industry. Rachel has a bachelor’s degree in English from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Learn more at https://www.jjkeller.com.

Pictogram Hazard
Flame Over Circle Oxidizers
Flame Flammables

Pyrophorics

Self-Heating

Emits Flammable Gas

Self-Reactives

Organic Peroxides

Exploding Bomb Explosives

Self-Reactives

Organic Peroxides

Skull and Crossbones Acute toxicity
Corrosion Skin Corrosion/Burns

Eye Damage

Corrosive to Metals

Gas Cylinder Gases Under Pressure
Health Hazard Carcinogen

Mutagenicity

Reproductive Toxicity

Target Organ Toxicity

Aspiration Toxicity

Exclamation Mark Irritant (skin and eye)

Skin Sensitizer

Acute Toxicity (harmful)

Narcotic Effects

Respiratory Tract Irritant

Hazardous to Ozone Layer (Non-Mandatory)

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