How are NFPA labels and diagrams formatted?

The NFPA diamond is one of the most famous and well-recognized safety symbols in the world. Even most people who don’t work with this type of thing have at least seen it on the back of trucks and in other areas. One of the reasons that it has become so popular is because of the fact that it is designed to be very simple. While this diagram doesn’t provide a huge amount of information at a glance, it does provide just enough to ensure employees, emergency responders, and others who have been taught will know what type of hazard is present, and how sever it is. Anyone who works with or around hazardous materials needs to at the very least know the basics of how to read NFPA labels and diagrams.

The Four Sections of the Diamond

The first thing to learn about the NFPA diamond is that it is broken up into four sections. Each section is a diamond within the main diamond and represents a different type of hazard. The sections are also color coded to make it easier for people to see at a glance what type of hazards are present. The sections are as follows:

  • Left Diamond – The left diamond is blue and used to represent health hazards. This can include materials that can cause diseases, skin problems, breathing issues, and much more.
  • Top Diamond – The top diamond is colored red and is used for any type of flammable materials.
  • Right Diamond – The right diamond is yellow and is used for unstable materials.
  • Bottom Diamond – The bottom diamond is white and used for PPE.

Rating System of the NFPA Diamond

Within each of the above-mentioned sections there may be a number, which is used to indicate the severity of the risk associated with the hazardous material. These numbers are found in the left, top, and right sections. Numbers aren’t in the bottom section because that section is for ‘special hazards’ so there are other icons there to specify what exact hazard may be. For the other three sections, the ratings are as follows:

  • 0 – This is the lowest level and is used when there is no threat at all.
  • 1 – Level one is a mild risk. Personal protection equipment can be worn but isn’t strictly required.
  • 2 – This is a moderate to serious level of risk. Proper personal protection equipment should be worn.
  • 3 – This is for severe threats that can cause immediate and long-lasting harm to anyone in the area.
  • 4 – Four is for the most severe hazards. Anything rated at a level four can be very deadly with any type of exposure.

Teaching all employees the basics of how to read NFPA labels or diagrams is very important. Fortunately, this is a fairly easy process that can typically be completed as part of a new hire or onboarding process.


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