What is Required on a Chemical Label?

A Practical Understanding of Chemical Labels

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determines what format is needed for chemical labels in the workplace. The official requirements are found in OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) 29 CFR 1910.1200(f).

Labels serve as a summarized display of the hazards present. In-depth information on the hazardous chemical will be found within the safety data sheet.

Label Elements

The following are the required label elements.

  1. Product Identifier, matching the identifier used on the safety data sheet

  2. Signal Word, either Warning or Danger

  3. Hazard Statements, indicating the hazardous properties of the chemical

  4. Pictograms, visual indications of the general type of hazard

  5. Precautionary Statements, indicating what precautionary measures need to be taken for the safe handling and storage of the chemical

  6. Name, Address, and Telephone Number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party

The required label elements are designed to conform with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) labeling requirements, making OSHA compliant labels also GHS compliant labels suitable for use on most international packages. The GHS label guidelines are used to determine the proper signal word, hazard statements, hazard symbols or pictograms, and precautionary statements.

GHS Pictograms

The GHS pictograms are a standardized, internationally recognized set of symbols used to convey the hazard categories of hazardous chemicals. The hazard categories are grouped into Physical Hazards, Health Hazards, and Environmental Hazards.

Multiple pictograms may apply to a single hazardous chemical.

exploding bomb pictrogram

Exploding Bomb Pictogram: Explosives, Self-Reactive Chemicals, and Organic Peroxides

gas cylinder pictrogram

Gas Cylinder Pictogram: Gases Under Pressure and Compressed Gases

flame pictogram

Flame Pictogram: Flammable Chemicals, Pyrophoric Chemicals, and Self-Heating Chemicals

flame over circle pictogram

Flame Over Circle Pictogram: Oxidizers

corrosion pictogram

Corrosion Pictogram: Chemicals Corrosive to Skin, Chemical Burn Risk, Eye Damage Risk, Chemicals Corrosive to Metals

exclamation mark pictogram

Exclamation Mark Pictogram: Chemicals Which Are Irritating to the Skin, Eyes, or Respiratory System, Skin Sensitizers, Chemicals With Narcotic Effects, or Otherwise Harmful Substances

health hazard pictogram

Health Hazard Pictogram: Carcinogens, Mutagens, Reproductive Toxicity, Substances Toxic by Inhalation or Aspiration, and Target Organ Toxicity.

skull and crossbones pictogram

Skull and Crossbones Pictogram: Acute Toxicity, Fatal and Non-Fatal Toxins.

environmental hazard pictogram

Environmental Hazard Pictogram: Aquatic Toxicity and Chemicals Which Pose Environmental Risks.

Labels and Other Forms of Warning by Location

The specific label elements required and the form they can be presented in depends on where the label is being used.

Labels on Shipped Containers

Each container of hazardous chemicals leaving the workplace must be appropriately labeled. The label must contain all six of the required label elements. A hazardous chemical that only has Hazards Not Otherwise Classified, such as producing combustible dust, but does not have other Health Hazards or Physical Hazards, does not require Shipped Containers Labels.

The label may be in the form of an attached label, such as an adhesive-backed sticker, or in the form of a tag. Tags should be used if the required content on a label would be too large to fit on the container in legible print or if the surface of the container does not allow adhesion of a label. Adhesive-Backed labels are most common on containers such as cardboard boxes and tags are most common on containers such as gas cylinders.

Labels on Shipped Containers must be placed in a manner that they do not interfere with any labels required by the Department of Transportation, such as Hazard Class labels or Hazardous Materials markings.

Workplace Labels

Hazardous chemical labels used in the workplace must contain the first five of the required label elements, excluding the "name, address, and telephone number of the responsible party" element.

Workplace labels may be affixed directly to the workplace chemical containers, such as using an adhesive-backed sticker. Alternatively, the required label elements may be displayed using signs, placards, process sheets, batch tickets, operating procedures, or other written materials. These alternate forms must be clearly associated with the hazardous chemicals they apply to, with the container requiring some form of identifying marks such as the product identifier or a batch number.

Primary and Secondary Containers

The primary container is the main storage container of the chemical. Secondary containers are generally smaller, portable containers used during work.

When a chemical is transferred from the primary container to a secondary container, the secondary container does not need to be labeled if the chemical will be immediately used.

If a chemical is transferred to a secondary container for later use, such as the following work day, then the secondary container must be labeled.

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