Do You Know How to Read a Hazardous Chemical Label?

If you work in an environment that uses chemicals, you may have seen hazardous chemical labels. These are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as it works to comply with the GHS, or Globally Harmonized System.

Hazardous chemical labels appear on every chemical container and include important information to follow when using that chemical. Every label features six pieces of key information, and you can help yourself and others stay safe when you know what each section means.

Product identifier

Appearing in the top left corner of the label is the chemical’s name in big, bold letters. It can also include the code number and/or the batch number of the chemical. By knowing the chemical’s name, you can ensure you’re using the right substance for the right job. Misuse of a chemical can be dangerous and even deadly.

Signal word

Next on the label is one of two words: danger or warning. Chemicals that present a severe hazard are labeled with the word danger. Be especially cautious when using these. Since all chemicals should be used carefully, others are labeled with the word warning, to note a less severe hazard.

Hazard statements

What danger does the chemical present? In the middle left-hand side of the label, you’ll see specific information about the type of danger presented by the chemical. The label could include one or multiple hazard statements, especially if it presents a severe hazard.

Precautionary statements

These appear at the bottom left side of the label and provide the following information to follow when using the chemical:

  • How to minimize exposure to the chemical
  • What to do if you’re exposed
  • Proper chemical storage
  • How to dispose of the chemical

Supplier information

This information appears along the bottom of the label and includes the name, address, website and phone number of the chemical’s supplier.

Pictograms

On the right side of the label, you’ll find a graphic showing the potential hazards presented by the chemical in easy-to-read picture format. Depending on the severity of the hazard, multiple pictograms could appear.

Ask if you have questions

If you’re unsure of the proper way to use a chemical, always ask your supervisor! It’s better to be safe than sorry, rather than place yourself and others in danger.

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