What is HMIS?

HMIS is an acronym that stands for Hazardous Materials Identification System. It is a hazard rating system that uses numbers as well as colors to make it easy for people to understand what type of dangers there is with chemicals. This system was developed by the American Coatings Association. They originally developed it to help remain in compliance with OSHA’s HazCom standards, but it has since rolled out to many other companies because it is seen as a very effective way to communicate various hazards that are present in many workplaces.

What Do the HMIS Colors Mean?

The colors used in the HMIS separate the hazards into various categories. This makes it extremely easy for people to quickly understand what type of danger may be present with just a glance. The colors and their meanings are as follows:

  • Blue – The blue category is used for health hazards.
  • Red – The red category is used for flammability hazards.
  • Yellow or Orange – The yellow/orange category is for reactivity or physical hazards.
  • White – The white category is used to indicate that personal protection equipment is needed in the area where this chemical is used.

What Do the HMIS Numbers Mean?

Within each color category there will be a number between 0 and 4. These numbers are used to indicate the severity of the danger for that category. Chemicals will be rated in each color category, even if no danger is present for that particular hazard. For example, a chemical may have a very high (4) health hazard rating, but no flammability (0) at all.

Using the HMIS System

One of the best things about the HMIS system is that it is so easy to use in any facility. A company won’t need to evaluate each chemical on their own since it has already been done and there is a set standard to follow. In most cases all a company will have to do is buy or print labels that can be put on chemical containers or areas where they are used. This is in addition to training everyone in the facility on what the colors and numbers mean, as well as how they should react based on these ratings. Overall it is a very easy and inexpensive system for any company to follow.


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