How do I read GHS labels?

When looking at GHS labels most people will immediately recognize the various pictograms that are surrounded by the red diamond. This is the most important part of the GHS label because it allows everyone to quickly understand the type of danger that is present when working with the chemical that has been labeled. In many situations, however, a GHS label will include a variety of other types of information as well. This will typically be written in black text on a white background. The information is displayed in specific formats so that readers can quickly locate what they need. GHS labels will be broken down into six different elements.

Product Identifier

The product identifier is where the information that identifies what chemical is being labeled. This identifier can be the chemical name, batch number, or code number according to OSHA standards. This identifier needs to match up with the safety data sheet that is kept on hand at the facility. In addition, all employees and others in the area need to make sure they are aware of what the product identifier is for all GHS labels.

Signal Word

Each GHS label will include a signal word, which is a one-word statement that is used to quickly identify the hazard level for the chemical in question. The signal word should be printed in bold lettering that is easy to see. There are two options when it comes to signal words:

  • Danger – Danger is to be used when the hazards associated with the chemical are more severe and serious.
  • Warning – Warning is to be used when the hazards associated with the chemical are less severe and serious.

Hazard Pictogram

Of course, the pictogram is going to make up a large portion of the whole GHS label. There are nine different pictograms, each designed to convey information about the general category of hazard that the chemical represents.

Hazard Statement

There should be a statement on the label that describes the various hazards that are known to be associated with the chemical being labeled. This segment of the label can include information about the nature of the hazard, and how severe it may be.

Precautionary Statement

This part of the label will let the reader know what steps should be taken in the event that the chemical or substance is spilled, or someone is exposed to it. It can also include information on how to help minimize the risk of exposure or hazard.

Supplier Information

OSHA requires that the labels include detailed information about the supplier of a chemical. This should include the supplier name, telephone number, address, and any other relevant information.


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