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Chemical Labeling Requirements

Requirements for labeling of chemical containers come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication and Laboratory Safety standards. All hazardous chemicals are required to be properly labeled (full chemical name) unless they are exempted by this standard.

OSHA either exempts or does require labeling for certain chemicals that are covered under other regulations (they have there own labeling requirements). These chemicals include: pesticides; Toxic Substance Control Act chemicals; Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act chemicals; spirits; consumer products; chemicals regulated under the Department of Agriculture; hazardous waste; tobacco products, wood products; ionizing radiation; biological hazards. OSHA also exempts portable containers (stock solutions) that are intended for the immediate use by the employee performing the transfer.

If chemicals are not exempted or covered under other regulations as indicated above, OSHA then says labels are required for them if they are hazardous chemicals. OSHA defines a hazardous chemical as anything that is a physical or health hazard. Physical hazards are pretty straight forward. They include flammable and combustible liquids, compressed gasses, explosives, organic peroxides, oxidizers, pyrophorics, and water reactives. Health hazards are a little harder to determine, however OSHA indicates they include the following: carcinogens; reproductive toxins; sensitizers; irritants; corrosives; neurotoxins; hapatotoxins; nephrotoxins; agents that act the hematopoitic system; and agents that damage the lungs, skin, eyes or mucus membranes. Because determining a health hazard can be somewhat subjective and dependent on dose and other factors, this link should assist you defining these further:

Dram vials and other small containers can be difficult to label because of their size. In this instance, we recommend that you place these items in test tube racks, boxes or other containers, and label these items instead. Labeling a shelf or draw where these chemicals are located is also possible, however any chemicals removed that do not have a full chemical name, must remain under your direct control and supervision.

Labels on purchased chemicals must include:

  1. The common name of the chemical
  2. The name, address and emergency phone number of the company responsible for the product
  3. An appropriate hazard warning

The warning may be a single word - "danger", "warning" and "caution" - or may identify the primary hazard, both physical (i.e., water reactive, flammable or explosive) and health (i.e., carcinogen, corrosive, or irritant). Most labels will provide you with additional safety information to help you protect yourself while working with substances. This includes protective measures to be used when handling the material, clothing that should be worn, first aid instructions, storage information and procedures to follow in the event of a fire, leak or spill. A good example of a label for acetone that meets OSHA requirements is included below. If you need labels for new or stock chemicals, Cornell University has an excellent site for printing up your own chemical labels located here.

Read the label each time you use a newly purchased chemical. It is possible the manufacturer may have added new hazard information or reformulated the product since your last purchase, and thus altered the potential hazards you face while working with the product.

 

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