When we talk about the requirements for chemical labels, we are talking about the standard to follow when labelling chemicals; this has a compound name called HazCom (Hazard Communication).
It is called hazard communication because the main purpose of labelling is to communicate the hazard inherent in any chemical; its composition, precaution, emergency response measures, etc.
What is HazCom
HazCom is a set of processes and procedures that employers and importers must implement in the workplace to effectively communicate hazards associated with chemicals exposure. This standard stipulates that manufactures of chemicals and employers using these chemicals must ensure that the hazards posed by the chemicals are properly controlled.
About Chemical Labelling
Hazardous chemical labeling requirements have been adopted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (OSHA) as part of a recent revision of its Hazard Communication Standard. This revision of OSHA’s HCS (Hazardous Chemicals Standard) is intended to bring it into compliance with the UN’s Globally Harmonised System of Classification (GHS) of Chemicals. These changes will improve the quality and consistency of the classification and labelling of all chemicals. They will also improve workers’ comprehension of hazardous chemicals.
When workers have better information about how to safely handle and use hazardous chemicals, they will be able to prevent injuries and illnesses associated with exposure to them. As part of the revised HCS, OSHA has moved from a performance based standard to a more structured standard for the labelling of chemicals.
Under the revised standard, hazardous chemicals must be labeled with quick visual notations that alert the user to the hazards immediately. Labels are also required to include instructions on how to safely handle the chemical, so that chemical users know how to protect themselves from the hazards.
While labels provide important information to workers on a specific hazardous chemical, they are limited in how much information they can provide by design. The more comprehensive resource for information regarding hazardous chemicals is the safety data sheets (SDSs) that must accompany hazardous chemicals. In the revised standard, the SDSs are a 16-section format that provides detailed information about the chemical. A separate OSHA Brief is available on SDSs.
After June 1, 2015
Manufacturers, importers and distributors may begin to use the new labeling system under the revised HCS prior to the effective date of June 1, 2015 if they so choose.
Requirements for Chemical Labels
Labels, as defined by the Hazardous Substances Convention (HCS), are a type of printed or graphic information relating to a hazardous chemical that is affixed, printed on the immediate container of the hazardous chemical, or printed on the outside packaging of the immediate container.
The Hazardous Substances Control Regulation (HSC) requires that every container of hazardous chemicals that leaves the workplace be labeled, labeled or marked as follows:
- Product Identifier
- Signal Word
- Hazard Statement
- Preventive Statement
Name, Address and Telephone Number: Name, Address and Telephone Number of the chemical manufacturer, importer or other responsible party.
Product Identifier: This is how the hazardous chemical is identified. This can be (but is not limited to) the chemical name, code number or batch number. The manufacturer, importer or distributor can decide the appropriate product identifier. The same product identifier must be both on the label and in section 1 of the SDS.
Signal Word: Signal Words are used to indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. There are only two words used as signal words, “Danger” and “Warning.” Within a specific hazard class, “Danger” is used for the more severe hazards and “Warning” is used for the less severe hazards.
There will only be one signal word on the label no matter how many hazards a chemical may have. If one of the hazards warrants a “Danger” signal word and another warrants the signal word “Warning,” then only “Danger” should appear on the label.
Hazard Statement: Hazard Statements describe the nature of the hazard of a chemical, including, where appropriate, the degree of hazard. For example: “Causes damage to kidneys through prolonged or repeated exposure when absorbed through the skin.” All of the applicable hazard statements must appear on the label.
Hazard statements may be combined where appropriate to reduce redundancies and improve readability. The hazard statements are specific to the hazard classification categories, and chemical users should always see the same statement for the same hazards no matter what the chemical is or who produces it.
Precautionary Statement: Precautionary Statements describe recommended measures that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to the hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling. There are four types of precautionary statements: prevention (to minimize exposure); response (in case of accidental spillage or exposure emergency response, and first-aid); storage; and disposal.
For example, a chemical presenting a specific target organ toxicity (repeated exposure) hazard would include the following on the label: “Do not breathe dust/fume/gas/mist/ vapors/spray. Get medical advice/attention if you feel unwell. Dispose of contents/ container in accordance with local/regional/ national and international regulations.” A forward slash (/) designates that the classifier can choose one of the precautionary statements.
Pictogram(s): Pictograms are graphic symbols used to communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical. On hazardous chemicals being shipped or transported from a manufacturer, importer or distributor, the required pictograms consist of a red square frame set at a point with a black hazard symbol on a white background, sufficiently wide to be clearly visible.
A square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol is not a pictogram and is not permitted on the label.