Hazard Communication Labels

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Nov 14, 2018

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires that companies producing and using hazardous materials must provide employees with information and training on the proper way to handle and use these materials.

OSHA's HCS applies to general industry, shipyard, marine terminals, longshoring, and construction employment and also covers chemical manufacturers, importers, employers, and employees exposed to chemical hazards.

In 2012, the HCS was changed to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Chemical Classification and Labeling (GHS) in order to improve the consistency of hazard information in the workplace.

The current Hazard Communication Standard provides specific criteria for the classification of both health and physical hazards, and also the classification of mixtures. It also states that chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Employers are required to train workers on the meaning of each symbol, as well as on the format of safety data sheets.


HCS Labeling Requirements

All hazard communication labels must include the following elements on shipped containers:

  • Product Identifier – This is the name or number used for a hazardous chemical.
  • Pictogram – A symbol on a white background within a red diamond. Under GHS there are 9 pictograms, but only eight are required until the HCS.
  • Signal Word – A single word a label, the signal word is used to indication the level or severity of a hazard. Danger represents more severe hazards, while warning is used for less severe hazards.
  • Hazard Statement – This is assigned to a hazard class and category that describes the nature of the hazards of the chemical, including the degree of the hazard.
  • Precautionary Statement
  • Name, Address, and Phone Number of the Chemical Manufacturer, Importer, or Responsible Party


If hazardous substances are transferred from a labeled container into another portable container, and used within a work shift, no labels are required on the portable container. If the chemical that was transferred is not used within a work shift or is used by an employee that did not perform the transfer, then a label is required on the portable container.

Employee Hazard Communication Training

OSHA requires employee hazard communication training that covers methods and observations used to detect the presence of hazardous chemicals in the work place; the physical, health, combustible dust and other hazards of chemicals in the work area; the measures employees can take to protect themselves from hazards; and the details of their employer’s specific hazard communication plan including an explanation of the workplace labeling system.

Employers must also train employees to properly read and use labels in the workplace. Training should cover how employees can use the information on the label to ensure proper storage of hazardous chemicals. It should also cover how the information on the label can be used to quickly locate information on first aid when needed by employees or emergency personnel.

Learn more about OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard on OSHA.gov.

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