This blog post is part of a series we’ve written on the GHS HAZCOM update.
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) was a system developed by the United Nations and the International Labor Organization to standardize hazard communication among companies worldwide. OSHA revised its Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the GHS in March 2012.
In this article, we are focusing on one of the most important aspects of HAZCOM training that was revised: the chemical label. According to OSHA, chemical labels include six label elements, which we’ll discuss one by one.
1. Product Identifier
The product identifier is found on the upper left-hand corner of the label and in Section 1 (Identification) of the Safety Data Sheet. It includes the chemical name, code, and batch number. The chemical manufacturer, distributor, and importer have the freedom and responsibility to decide on the appropriate product identifier.
2. Signal Word
The signal word is printed on the right half of the label below the pictogram. There are only two types of signal words used to determine hazard severity: “DANGER” and “WARNING”. Danger is used for more severe hazards while warning is used for less severe ones. The rule of thumb when using the signal word is to choose only one signal word on the label even though the chemical may have several hazards.
The hazard pictogram is shown on the upper right-hand corner of the label. The pictogram is comprised of a hazard symbol, framed by a red square border. The HAZCOM update will implement the use of nine pictograms, the meanings are detailed below:
a. Flame Over Circle – Oxidizers
b. Flame – Flammables; pyrophorics; self-heating; emits flammable gas self reactives; organic peroxide
c. Exploding Bomb – Explosives; self reactives; organic peroxides
d. Skull and Crossbones – acute toxicity (severe)
e. Corrosion – Corrosives
f. Gas Cylinder – Gases under pressure
g. Health Hazard – Carcinogen; mutagenicity; reproductive toxicity; respiratory sensitizer; target organ toxicity; aspiration toxicity
h. Environment – Aquatic toxicity
i. Exclamation – Irritant; skin sensitizer; acute toxicity (harmful); narcotic effects; respiratory tract irritation; hazardous to ozone layer
4. Hazard Statement
The hazard statement is found below the signal word on the label. It describes the nature of the hazard. Sometimes more than one hazard may appear on the label. It is one of the most important parts of the label and should be checked often; it is not safe to assume that hazard statements are the same for chemicals of the same cluster, regardless of classification or manufacturer.
Example: “Causes damage to the kidneys through prolonged or repeated exposure when absorbed through the skin.”
5. Precautionary Statement
The precautionary statement is found on the left-hand side of the label below the supplier identification. It is composed of a quick phrase or sentence that instructs workers on how to minimize occupational exposure to the chemical and mitigate incidences. Found below are verbatim examples of precautionary statements that OSHACampus OHST, Marie Athey has used in her GHS HAZCOM webinar:
Labels give workers information on correct storage of the chemical or exposure effects.
Information on the label might be used to quickly locate information on first aid when needed by employees or emergency personnel.
6. Supplier Identification
The supplier identification is located just below the product identifier on the label. It includes the company name, address and phone number of the manufacturer, distributor or importer of the chemical.
Some 40 million workers and over 5 million businesses will be affected by the upcoming GHS HAZCOM update. Employers must ensure employees are trained by December 1, 2012.
Learn more about these chemical labels in OSHACampus’s GHS and Online OSHA Hazardous Communication training.