Labeling on a hazardous chemical container is used to enable workers to identify the contents of the container and any hazards associated with the correct classification of the chemicals in order to take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimize the risks. The hazards associated with the chemical, the volume of the chemical; and the type of container that is used for the chemical will define the type and amount of information that is required on a label.
According to OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard [29 CFR 1910.1200(f)(1)], employers are obliged to follow specific labeling requirements regarding chemical management and handling.
Permanent Container Labels
Containers of hazardous substances, which could be bags, barrels, bottles, boxes, cans, cylinders, drums and reaction vessels, must comply with the following:
- The identity of the chemical and appropriate hazard warnings must be shown on the label.
- The hazard warning must provide users with an immediate understanding of the primary health and/or physical hazard(s) of the hazardous chemical through the use of words, pictures, symbols, or any combination of these elements.
- The name and address of the manufacturer, importer or other responsible party must be included on the label.
- The hazard label message must be legible, permanently displayed and written in English.
Portable (Secondary) Container Labels
When chemicals used to laboratory operations need to be transferred from the original labeled container into a secondary container for other than immediate use, such as beaker, flask, or bottle, it is necessary that these portable containers must meet the labeling requirements listed above, if:
- The material is not used during the work shift of the person who makes the transfer.
- The individual who made the transfer leaves the work area.
- The container is moved to another work area and is no longer in the possession of the employee who filled the container.
The only exception is in case the employee, who transferred the chemical from a properly labeled container, uses all of the contents during the work shift. Otherwise, if a portable container is used for longer than one shift or does not comply with the requirements presented in the Permanent Container Labels section, then it must be labeled as well. The basic information on the label should be the identity of the hazardous chemical in the container, for example the chemical name and the hazards present.
Maintenance of Container Labels
It is important to firmly attach the label on the container of a hazardous chemical. The color of the label’s printing should also be in contrast to the label’s background color. If the required label is defaced, damaged; or has fallen off, then it must be replaced immediately.
Pay attention to the contents of the container. In case you cannot conclusively identify them, then the container should be handled as if it was an unlabeled container.
Don’t use containers, which are indicated on their label that contain a hazardous chemical, for any other chemical or substance.
Remember to remove the label when the container has been cleaned of the hazardous chemicals. In other case, it is forbidden to remove, deface, modify or alter the label of a hazardous chemical container, unless the label contains incorrect information, and it is being altered to depict the correct information; or has been damaged and is being replaced.
For more information concerning labeling containers of hazardous chemicals in a laboratory, visit: www.osha.gov or call 1-800-321-674.