OSHA updated their Hazard Communication Standard in 2012 to officially align itself with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling. With the update, hazardous chemicals must be labeled with the required elements outlined in the GHS standard. If your facility manufactures, imports, or distributes any materials identified by GHS, you will need to label any containers with the proper label. While you can order GHS labels from a catalog or a company, you can save money and time by creating your own labels in house.
Creating a compliant and professional-grade GHS label is easier than you may think. The first step is to understand the elements you will need to include on the label:
- Product Name or Identifier: This states the chemical’s identifier in bold, unmistakable text that’s immediately apparent to anyone viewing the label. The identifier can be the chemical name, code number, or batch number, among other options. Whatever identifier is chosen will need also be the identifier on the Safety Data Sheet.
- Signal Word: A label’s signal word indicates the level of hazard a chemical pose to people and the environment. The two acceptable signal words are “Danger” and “Warning,” and only the most appropriate signal word should be printed on the label.
- Hazard Pictograms: Simple, straightforward illustrations offer clear information on the hazard contained within, even without reading the attached text. There are nine pictograms approved by OSHA including a pictogram for corrosive materials, flammable chemicals, and more.
- Hazard Statements: A more detailed text-based explanation of a chemical’s hazards that explains how and why the chemical poses a risk to people and the environment. The hazard statement is based off the hazard classification and typically includes a designated code.
- Precautionary Statements: The precautionary statements cover best practices to avoid accidents when using a chemical, and briefly explains what to do (or, more accurately, which medical professionals should be contacted) in the event of a fire, unintended exposure, or other accident.
- Contact Information: Contact information for the chemical’s manufacturer or distributor needs to be included on the label. This usually includes the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible party.
Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s)
All of the information you’ll need to create a GHS-compliant HazCom label can be found on a chemical’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), which should be shipped alongside a chemical by its manufacturer or distributor. More detailed and standardized than the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) prescribed by OSHA regulations prior to the 2012 update, these Safety Data Sheets offer a comprehensive explanation of a chemical’s properties, its potential hazards, and guidelines on safe handling and storage — there’s even information on who to call in the event of an emergency.
It is critical for chemical manufacturers, importers, and distributors to be in line with the GHS standard, officially adopted by OSHA. Following GHS will not only keep your workers safe but can keep emergency personnel or customers safe as well. You can print professional-grade OSHA labels in house with an industrial label printer, making compliance simple and attainable.