Signal words are used to communicate the severity of a hazard as well as alert the reader who is coming into close proximity of the hazardous material. The HCS requires one of two signal words to appear on a label in its GHS labeling standards set by OSHA, these include “Danger” or “Warning.” This important new rule was added in the 2015 revision of 29 CFR 1910.1200. It was made to ensure that GHS labels were succinct and easy to read for anyone involved in handling hazardous materials.
These two signal words cannot appear on a label at the same time. “Danger” is used when there is a more severe health hazard involved in the handling of specific substances while “Warning” is used for less severe hazards. When choosing which signal word to use, the hazard category must be determined first. This is usually done by analyzing test data to see how the chemical reacts in different environments or how living bodies respond to exposure.
If there are multiple hazards involved, then the person in charge of labeling will have to go by the most dangerous classification because signal words always follow the more severe hazard.
If one ever runs into a label that happens to not have a signal word, that does not mean that there isn’t any risk associated with the material. If this ever happens look to the other information that is present on the GHS label. These references include:
- Hazard statement(s)
- Precautionary Statement(s)