GHS Labels: What They Look Like and What They Mean

GHS Labels: What They Look Like and What They Mean

There are nine pictograms under the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) to convey health, physical and environmental hazards. The final Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires eight of these pictograms, the exception being the environmental pictogram, as environmental hazards that are not within OSHA’s jurisdiction. The hazard identification, pictograms and their corresponding hazards are shown below.

How to Use GHS Pictograms

Pictogram means a graphical composition that may include a symbol plus other elements, such as a border, background pattern or color that conveys specific information. All hazard pictograms should be in the shape of a square set on a point (diamond).

For transport, the pictograms prescribed by the UN Model Regulations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods should be used. Transport pictograms must have minimum dimensions of 3.9 inches by 3.9 inches, with exceptions for smaller pictograms on very small packaging and gas cylinders. Transport pictograms have symbol on upper half of label. The pictograms should be affixed to a background of contrasting color.


Can I use a black border on pictograms for domestic shipment?

No, pictograms must have red borders. OSHA believes that the use of the red frame will increase recognition and comprehensibility. The color red naturally attracts the eye above all other colors. Therefore, the red frame is required regardless of whether the shipment is domestic or international.

When must label information be updated?

OSHA is lifting the stay on enforcement regarding the provision to update labels when new information on hazards becomes available. Chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors, or employers who become newly aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of a chemical shall revise the labels for the chemical within six months of becoming aware of the new information, and shall ensure that labels on containers of hazardous chemicals shipped after that time contain the new information. If the chemical is not currently produced or imported, the chemical manufacturer, importer, distributor, or employer shall add the information to the label before the chemical is shipped or introduced into the workplace again.

How will workplace labeling provisions be changing under the revised HCS?

Employers may choose to label workplace containers either with the same label that would be on shipped containers for the chemical under the revised rule, or with label alternatives that meet the requirements for HCS. Alternative labeling systems such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 704 Hazard Rating and the Hazardous Material Information System (HMIS) are permitted for workplace containers. However, the information supplied on these labels must be consistent with the revised HCS, e.g., no conflicting hazard warnings or pictograms.

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