Chemical container labeling is one of the most effective and efficient ways to communicate hazard information to your coworkers and prevent accidents and injuries.
Clear and consistent labeling that follows the Hazard Communication Standard is required in all University of Washington facilities including laboratories, shops, clinics, and other locations where employees use, store, and transport chemicals.
Chemical manufacturers are required to follow labeling requirements on the original container labels, and the downstream users of these chemicals are also required to follow labeling requirements when they transfer chemicals to secondary containers, label chemical waste, label UW-synthesized chemicals, label peroxide-forming chemicals, and label Chemicals of Interest per the Department of Homeland Security rules.
The basic requirements for labeling chemicals and templates for creating labels are discussed in the sections below.
The label on an original chemical container must be legible and written in English. It must include the chemical/product name as shown on the SDS and the manufacturer's name and address. Do not accept materials if the label is illegible or missing required information. (See example of original label below).
As of June 1, 2015, labels on chemicals/products shipped from the manufacturer must be consistent with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) as required by Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 296-901-140.
The WAC requires six elements on original labels (as of June 1, 2015):
- Product name
- Manufacturer's name and contact information
- Signal word (e.g., "danger" or "warning")
- Hazard statement(s) (e.g., "toxic if inhaled" or "combustible liquid")
- GHS pictogram(s)
- Precautionary statements (e.g., "Keep container tightly closed")
Avoid damaging the original container’s label, if possible. If a container label becomes damaged or is no longer readable, a new label must be prepared that includes the six required WAC elements to comply with GHS rules.
Read the Hazard Communication Standard for Labels and Pictograms for more information about original container label requirements.
Contact EH&S at 206.543.7388 or email@example.com for assistance in preparing a replacement label.
Many University workplaces, including laboratories, shops, and other facilities, purchase hazardous chemicals or products in large quantities, concentrates, or for mixing with other chemicals. To use the chemical/product it may need to be transferred to a smaller or different “secondary” container (e.g., vials, flasks or bottles) for dilution, mixing, or general use.
If you transfer a hazardous chemical into a secondary container, the secondary container must be correctly labeled to ensure workers are readily aware of the contents and understand the hazards.
The Hazard Communication Standard requires secondary chemical container labels contain at least the following information:
- Identity of the contents (spell out chemical names)
- Signal word, if known or suspected (e.g., “danger”, “warning”)
- Hazards, if known or suspected (e.g., “flammable”, “corrosive”, “irritant”)
Words, symbols, pictures, Globally Harmonized System (GHS) pictograms, or a combination thereof, which provide at least general information regarding the chemical’s physical and health hazards can be used on the secondary container label.
It is best practice to label the working solution with the name of the person preparing the solution and the date of preparation. Information about the signal word, hazards and the precautionary statements from the label, can be obtained from the SDS, but dilutions and reactions may change the hazards and their severity.
The label can include additional information, such as the composition of chemicals and percent concentration in the container, the date the chemical was received, the date a container was opened (if the chemical could degrade or react over time), the name of the person who prepared the chemical, or any other information useful for safe and efficient use.
Employees in the workplace must be able to readily understand the chemical and hazard information on a secondary container label. Abbreviations or acronyms should not be used on the labels.
Secondary container labels are not required if both of the following apply:
- The reagent, stock solution and chemicals mixed for use are under the direct control of the person who transferred or prepared it, and
- The container will be emptied during that person’s work shift.
Note: New label template options A, B, C, D, replace older label template options 1, 2 and 3.
EH&S has designed four secondary chemical container label templates for your use.
Templates A and B are PDF fillable forms. Templates C and D are Word documents that show GHS pictograms.
Templates A, B and C are formatted for printing on Avery 5163 (2” x 4” label, 8 labels, 8½” x 11” page).
All templates can be resized to fit smaller containers. Links and instructions for the templates are given below.