Hazardous materials and physical areas where hazardous conditions exist are often labeled to ensure safety and compliance with regulations. Labeling hazardous materials typically involves using various types of labels and requires specific information as mandated by regulatory authorities. 

Using hazardous labeling protects your workers, customers, the public, and the environment. 

This article addresses some key considerations related to hazardous material labeling:

Types of Hazardous Labels:

  • Hazardous Material Diamond Labels (Placards): 
  • These labels use a diamond shape to convey information about the primary hazard of the material being transported. The diamond is divided into sections, each indicating a different type of hazard (e.g., flammable, corrosive, toxic).
  • Shipping Labels: 
  • Required on packages containing hazardous materials during transportation. They include information such as the material’s identity, hazard class, and UN (United Nations) number.
  • Product Labels: 
  • Affixed to containers of hazardous substances to convey information about the hazards posed by the product.

Hazardous Information Required by Law:

The information required on hazardous labels is typically governed by regulations such as the GHS (Globally Harmonized System).  This organization provides a standardized approach to classifying and labeling chemicals globally. It mandates elements in the label such as the product identifier, hazard pictograms, signal words, hazard statements, and precautionary statements.

United Nations (UN): Develops and maintains regulations for transporting dangerous goods, including labeling requirements for international trade.

DOT (Department of Transportation): Regulates the transportation of hazardous materials in the United States to enhance safety during transportation.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration): In the United States, OSHA sets regulations for workplace safety, including labeling hazardous materials.

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency): Regulates the use, handling, and disposal of hazardous materials to protect the environment. This agency collaborates with other agencies to establish comprehensive guidelines.

These organizations may require information such as:

  • Product identifier
  • Hazard pictograms
  • Signal words (e.g., Danger, Warning)
  • Hazard statements
  • Precautionary statements
  • Supplier information

The size of a hazardous label will vary depending on the type of label, the regulatory requirements, and the specific information that needs to be conveyed. However, some general guidelines and common sizes are often used.

  • Placards:
    • Hazardous material diamond labels, or placards, used on vehicles, generally have standardized sizes to enhance visibility. The dimensions are typically designed to meet regulatory specifications for easy identification from a distance.
    • Utilize a diamond-shaped design to convey primary hazard information during transportation.
    • Sections within the diamond denote specific hazards, such as flammability, corrosiveness, or toxicity.
  • Shipping Labels:
    • Shipping labels for hazardous materials, as specified by regulations such as those outlined by the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) or the Department of Transportation (DOT), often have specific size requirements. These requirements can include minimum dimensions for the label to ensure visibility and legibility during transportation.
    • Essential for packages transporting hazardous materials, including details like material identity, hazard class, and UN number.
  • Product Labels:
    • Product labels, which are affixed to containers of hazardous substances, can vary in size. They must be large enough to accommodate all required information, including the product identifier, hazard statements, precautionary statements, and any other details mandated by relevant regulations.

While there are no universally fixed dimensions for hazardous labels, it’s essential to follow the requirements outlined by the relevant regulatory agencies to ensure compliance and effective communication of hazard information. These agencies often provide label size and formatting guidelines to promote consistency and safety. It’s advisable to refer to the specific regulations applicable to your industry and region for accurate and up-to-date information.

Best Practices:

To ensure compliance with relevant regulations, it’s important to train employees on how to read and interpret hazardous labels and use standardized labeling systems in your workplace to promote consistency and understanding.

Labels should be easily visible and legible, and labels should be regularly updated to reflect any changes in the hazardous nature of the material.

Maintain records of labeled materials, including safety data sheets (SDS), to comply with regulatory requirements.  Always clearly communicate hazards and precautionary measures to those handling or exposed to the materials.

Staying informed about regulatory changes, implementing robust training programs, and consistently applying best practices contribute to safely handling and transporting hazardous materials and protecting workers, customers, the public, and the environment.