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A Guide to Labelling for Hazardous Storage

If your business uses, stores, transports or manufactures hazardous substances you have a legal and ethical duty to take appropriate safety measures. These can include storing certain chemicals at specific temperatures, taking care to use the right type of container, implementing appropriate procedures to manage any leaks or spills, and labelling substances clearly and carefully. This is our guide to labelling your hazardous products for safe storage and handling. Find here – A Guide to Labelling for Hazardous Storage.

What are hazard labels?

Hazard labels are fixed to the containers that are being used to store potentially hazardous materials – so a gas canister, a petrol tank or a pesticide bottle, for example. These labels are usually adhesive and are stuck on to the container in an obvious, clear and easy to read position. The labels themselves will typically incorporate pictograms, text and the hazard class – so it might say ‘flammable liquid’, have a picture of flames, and the number ‘3’ (the hazard class for flammable liquids). Hazard labels should also be displayed clearly on chemical storage cabinets so users can easily identify the hazards inside.

Why use labels?

Hazard labels allow you and your personnel to identify different types of hazardous materials – ensuring that they are being stored or transported appropriately and minimising the risks of misuse or mishandling through incorrect identification.

Even if you only use one type of hazardous substance within your site and all your personnel are aware of the contents of your containers and how they should be handled and stored – you still absolutely need to use hazard labels. This is so that any emergency services that are called to your site (in the event of a fire, for example) can quickly identify the hazardous materials and take appropriate action to tackle any potential issues.

What is the law?

The law is clear cut – if a substance has been identified as having the potential to cause harm, then it should be labelled. The hazard label must include specific symbols (known as ‘pictograms’) and written warnings. These pictograms and the wording that supports them are set out in law.

What are the types of labels?

You should be able to find hazard labels suitable for any potentially dangerous chemical or substance – after all it is a legal requirement that potential hazards are clearly marked. Some common options include:

GHS (General Harmonised System, the United Nations’ global directive for chemical labelling):

  • Compressed gas
  • Corrosive
  • Explosive
  • Environmental damage
  • Flammable
  • Irritant
  • Oxidising
  • Health hazard
  • Acute toxicity

Specific hazard labels:

  • Compressed gas – class 2
  • Flammable gas – class 2
  • Corrosive – class 8
  • Infectious substance – class 6
  • Poison – class 6
  • Radioactive – class 7
  • Organic peroxide – class 5.2

What to look out for

Your hazard label should have a strong adhesive (so that it doesn’t peel or scrape off easily in transit), bold colours and be of a large enough size that it is unlikely that anyone would miss it. The standard relating to hazard labelling is BS 5609 – this provides specifications for the durability of the label and the clarity of the ink when submerged in seawater for up to three months. Look out for labels that meet these criteria – they are the top tier, high-quality options.

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