Are you prepared to meet the new OSHA hazardous chemical labeling requirements? OSHA has developed a new labeling system that will improve the quality and consistency in the classification and labeling of all chemicals ensuring that your workers will have better information on the safe handling and use of hazardous chemicals. The new hazard communication labels are made up of six (6) elements that help communicate critical information to keep your workers safe.
Changes to the labels will go into effect after June 1, 2015 however; some manufacturers, importers and distributors may start using the new labeling system before the effective date. We wanted to point out a few requirements and give you an idea of how the new labels communicate vital information in handling hazardous materials.
The new labels will consist of six (6) elements, five (5) of which are required for all chemical and hazardous material labels. Labels are limited by design, so all hazardous materials must be accompanied by a Safety Data Sheet (SDS). Labels will also have graphic symbols, known as pictograms that will communicate specific information about the hazards of a chemical. There are set requirements on how the pictograms are designed and follow specific requirements that are used worldwide.
The following elements must be communicated on labels of hazardous chemicals:
- Name, Address and Telephone Number of the chemical manufacturer, importer or other responsible party.
- Product Identifier. The hazardous chemical is identified by, but not limited to, the chemical name, code number or batch number. The manufacturer, importer or distributor can decide the appropriate product identifier however; documentation must be consistent on both the label and the SDS.
- Signal Words. Indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard and alert your workers to the potential hazard of handling the chemical. The signal words, “Danger” and “Warning” are the only two (2) Signal Words that allowed on the label. “Danger” is for more severe hazards. Some chemicals contain more than one hazard that can be classified as both “Danger” and “Warning”. In the situation where multiple hazards are present, the signal “Danger” warning takes precedence over the signal “Warning” hazard; only “Danger” should appear on the label.
- Hazard Statements. All labels must contain explanations of the nature of the hazard and can also include the degree of the hazard. All applicable hazard statements must appear on the label. Hazard statements can be combined to reduce redundancies and make it easier to read. The statements are specific to classification categories so chemical users should always communicate the same statement for the same hazard no matter the chemical or who produced it.
- Precautionary Statements. Recommended measures that your workers should take in order to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to hazardous chemical or improper storage and/or handling. There are four types of precautionary statements communicated on the labels; Prevention, Response, Storage and Disposal. To help with readability and to save space, precautionary statements can be combined. For example:
- Precautionary Statement 1 – Keep away from heat, spark and open flames.
- Precautionary Statement 2 – Store in a well-ventilated place.
- Precautionary Statement 3 – Keep Cool.
An acceptable statement that combines all three (3) precautionary statements:
“Keep away from heat, sparks and open flames and store in a cool, well-ventilated place”.
In certain situations, the most stringent statements must be included on the label. The chemical manufacturer, importer or distributor may impose an order of precedence to ensure the health and safety of your workers. The Precautionary statement would look like this:
“Keep away from heat, sparks, and open flames – No Smoking”
- Supplementary Information. The label producer may communicate additional instructions or information that it deems helpful. There is no required format for the labels; however, it cannot contradict or detract from the required information.
It is important that you communicate a consistent message to keep your workers safe. The new elements required for labels allow for quick communication using visuals to alert workers and provide immediate recognition of the hazards and how to handle the chemical so your workers can protect themselves.