Chemical labels play an important role in keeping people in a variety of industries safe. Whether you’re in the beauty sector, healthcare, or agriculture, if you and your employees use chemicals, you need to know the ins and outs of chemical labeling.
In this guide, we’ll explain chemical label requirements from OSHA and GHS standards that you’ll need to be aware of. Plus, we’ll talk about chemical equation labels and where to buy custom chemical labels. Read on to learn everything you need to know to keep you and your employees safe!
If you’re reading this blog post, you probably know that chemical labeling is pretty important. The primary purpose of chemical labeling is to provide the most essential information to anyone who is handling a chemical. That includes the nature of the chemical, possible hazards (such as flammability), and how to safely handle the chemicals inside the container.
What Are the Requirements for Chemical Labels?
Chemical labels aren’t just important–they’re required by OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS or HazCom). If you are handling chemicals in your workplace, the chemicals have to be labeled. Chemicals in the primary container from the manufacturer are already labeled, but those containers are usually too unwieldy for regular use. If you move a chemical into a smaller container, you are required to label the secondary container. Chemical labels need the following: a product identifier, hazard pictogram, signal word, hazard statement, precautionary statement, and supplier information.
What Is Not Required on a Chemical Label?
Chemical labels provide important information to ensure safety and compliance. They follow a specific set of requirements to clearly communicate essential information. Chemical labels must remain clear and uncluttered. Here are some elements that are typically not required on a chemical label:
- Non-hazardous information
- Legal disclaimers
- Environmental impact
OSHA Hazard Communication Standard
The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, or HazCom, is a set of regulations developed by OSHA to ensure that employees are informed about the hazards of the chemicals they work with.
Key components of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard include:
- Chemical classification: Chemicals must be classified according to GHS.
- Chemical labels: Hazardous chemicals in the workplace must be labeled.
- Safety data sheets: Safety data sheets have to be supplied and accessible so employees can access additional information.
- Employee training: Employers are responsible for training employees that might be exposed to hazardous chemicals.
- Written HazCom program: Employers must develop, implement, and maintain a written hazard communication program that details how your workplace will comply with the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, or GHS, is a set of international standards developed by the United Nations as a universal way to classify and label chemicals. The goal of GHS is to protect both humans and the environment.
Under GHS, hazards are classified into categories based on their potential effects, like acute toxicity, flammability, or carcinogenicity. GHS standards also dictate a specific way to communicate chemical hazards, including pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, and precautionary statements.
GHS Label Elements
GHS standards outline six elements that must be included on chemical labels. Those elements include:
- Product identifier: A unique name or code that identifies the chemical.
- Hazard pictograms: A set of symbols or pictograms that visually represent the hazards of the chemicals. These symbols can be understood universally, regardless of language. They are set inside a red diamond with a white background and black image.
- Signal word: GHS uses signal words to indicate the severity of the hazards. “Danger” is used for severe hazards, while “Warning” is used for less severe hazards.
- Hazard statements: Standardized phrases describe both the nature and the degree of the hazards associated with the chemical.
- Precautionary statements: These states provide practical advice for safe handling, storage, and disposal of the chemical.
- Supplier information: The label must include the name, address, and phone number of the manufacturer, importer, or supplier so that users can contact someone for more information in an emergency.
Small Container Labeling
Labeling small containers with all that information can be challenging. So, when a container is less than the width of the label, the container can be labeled with only the sample number or product identifier. However, all the required information for the chemical has to be on a nearby reference sheet or on the outer container. Additionally, first responders need to be able to easily find the GHS label or reference sheet.
Safety Data Sheet
A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a standardized document that provides detailed information about the chemical. SDSs convey critical safety information beyond what’s on the chemical label. The standardized format of the SDS ensures that users can easily find and understand essential information.
Here are the key components that need to be on a Safety Data Sheet:
- Product information: The product identifier and the manufacturer contact information
- Hazard identification: All hazard information, including the classification and hazard pictogram
- Composition: A list of all the ingredients in the product and trade name secrets
- First aid measures: Information on what to do in case of exposure
- Firefighting measures: How flammable the product is and how to properly extinguish
- Accidental release measures: What to do in case of a spill, including containment and cleanup measures
- Handling and storage: How to safely handle and store the chemical
- Exposure controls and PPE: Permissible exposure limits and control measures, as well as recommendations for protective equipment
- Physical and chemical properties: Physical characteristics such as color or odor as well as chemical properties like melting, boiling point, or density
- Stability and reactivity: How stable the chemical is in various conditions as well as potential reactions with other substances
- Toxicological information: Routes of exposure (how the substance might enter the body) and information on acute and chronic health effects
- Ecological information: The impact of the substance on the environment
- Disposal considerations: Guidelines for safe disposal
- Transport information: Information on how the substance should be handled during transportation
- Regulatory information: Applicable regulations and compliance information
- Other information: The date when the SDS was issued or updated and any other relevant information
Chemical Equation Labels
Chemical equation labels are specialized labels used to convey information about the chemical composition or reactions of a substance. They are different from chemical labels, which focus solely on safety information. Instead, chemical equation labels include the scientific aspects of a chemical, including the chemical formulas, states of matter, reaction conditions, and types of reactions.
Chemical equation labels are most commonly used in education and scientific settings. They provide a visual representation to explain chemical reactions. In a chemistry classroom, chemical equation labels are a learning tool to teach students fundamental principles of chemistry. Chemical reaction labels are also used in research and development environments. They are used to communicate specific details about experimental reactions, which helps researchers replicate experiments.
Some of the best uses of chemical equation labels include:
- Chemistry education: To teach students the fundamentals of chemistry.
- Process optimization: In manufacturing, to ensure consistent quality in the chemical processes of producing materials.
- Laboratory experiments: To document experimental reactions.
- Quality control: To ensure that processes are running as intended in industries that rely on chemical processes.
While chemical equation labels can be a great resource, there are several instances when they shouldn’t be used:
- Basic hazard communication: Chemical equation labels are complex, especially for someone not trained in chemistry. GHS labels should be used to follow OSHA HazCom standards instead.
- General public communication: Again, because of the complexity of chemical equation labels, they should not be used to communicate with the general public. Instead, GHS labels offer a clear and concise way to communicate chemical hazards.
- Emergency signage: In emergencies, clear and concise signage is necessary. Chemical equation labels are too complex to work well in emergency situations.
Custom Chemical Labels
If you need custom chemical labels, you’ve come to the right place. At Coast Label, we offer GHS labels, chemical equation labels, and custom chemical labels for all your secondary container labeling. We’ll help you design chemical labels that adhere to GHS and OSHA regulations to ensure the safety of your employees. Our custom chemical labels can be engineered to be chemical-resistant, weatherproof, waterproof, or heat-resistant for maximum durability.