There are a number of laws mandating that employers correctly label chemicals, especially those that are potentially dangerous. Companies are not allowed to transport, use or store hazardous substances that are not labelled properly.
Over a decade ago, the International Labour Organisation (in conjunction with its Convention and Recommendation on Safety in the Use of Chemicals at Work) found that a harmonised approach to identifying and protecting against chemicals was lacking in the global community. To unify and strengthen international efforts to improve safety and communication, the United Nations issued the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). This system developed a more comprehensive worldwide approach to chemicals that would more effectively communicate information and protective measures, in order to safeguard against disasters in the workplace and environment.
Required Information for Chemical Safety Labels
In keeping with GHS recommendations, make sure that you include the following elements on your safety labels for chemicals, and be aware of any additional information that may be required by local agencies (or other countries, if you do business globally). Keep in mind that workplace chemicals can have different—and usually more stringent—safety labelling than chemicals in consumer products.
- Chemical identification is the first step of hazard communication. Labels must list the name or number of the chemical (a product identifier) as well as applicable hazard warnings. Hazard warnings must be able to convey immediate understanding of risks to health and environment; this can be achieved by using a combination of words and pictures. The GHS standardized label elements are symbols, also called hazard pictograms, which show the hazard class/category; signal words (“danger” for more serious hazards and “warning” for less of a risk), and hazard statements that describe the nature of the risk. Only the symbol/signal word that corresponds to the most severe hazard should be included on the label; for example, if “danger” applies to any chemical, the signal word “warning” should not also be included.
- The chemical supplier must include their contact information (name, address, phone number) on the label.
- Labels should include information about how to safely store, handle, use and dispose of the chemical. Precautionary statements and/or symbols will prevent and minimise any adverse effects.
- If a chemical is transferred from its original container into a new one, the portable container must also comply with labelling regulations. This is especially true if used outside of working hours, or if the person who transfers the chemical or portable container leaves the work area.
Creating Chemical Safety Labels
- Templates are available through numerous websites and software that will make label creation a simple task; or you can send your request to a reliable label manufacturer. Be sure to specify the information you need to include and choose only the highest quality to avoid having to redo the process later on.
- The material and quality of your labels matter. By law, safety labels on hazardous chemicals must be readable and permanent, affixed to the chemical container or pipe work. Many label manufacturers specialise in creating durable, permanent adhesive labels that can withstand even the harshest industrial or outdoor conditions. Use the best quality for your protection and the protection of those who are handling or storing your chemicals.
By correctly labelling chemicals, companies can ensure a safer workplace; reduce health care costs due to fewer chemical-related accidents and illnesses; increase efficiency, and even create a more reliable corporate image. Workers will benefit from a more simplified system for identifying and handling chemicals, and the environment and the general public deserve the right to an honest, preventive approach towards chemical incidents.
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