Toolbox Talks: Hazard Information on Container Labels

When using any chemical it is important to know if the chemical is actually hazardous. So, what qualities make a chemical hazardous according to OSHA?

  1. Flammable, combustible, and / or explosive.
  2. Corrosive (acids or caustics).
  3. Irritating or damaging to the eyes and / or body.
  4. Poses a hazard through inhalation, ingestion, or body contact.
  5. Any known or suspected carcinogen.

There are two basic ways to determine if a chemical is hazardous: (1) the container or packaging label and (2) the material safety data sheet (MSDS).  We’ll review the label with this tool-box-talk.

Warning labels, found on containers of hazardous materials, provide much of the information you need to know to use the product safely. You can get the same information, and more, from a MSDS but the container label is easier to read and sometimes includes easy-to-understand symbols.  If you find a container with no label or a torn or unreadable label, the law requires you to replace the label or remove the container from the work area.

The most important information on the label is the word that indicates how hazardous the product is.  There are three levels of hazard wording.  They are Danger, Warning, and Caution.

  • Danger: means it is the most hazardous kind of material.
  • Warning: is less hazardous than Danger, but more hazardous than Caution.
  • Caution: is the least hazardous rating.  However, products listed with the Caution label can be harmful if you don’t follow proper procedures.

The minimum requirements for labels on in-coming containers must include:

  • The identity of the hazardous chemicals that are cross referenced to the applicable MSDS,
  • Appropriate hazard warnings for health (inhalation, irritation to the eyes, burns to the skin, or other ill health effects) and physical concerns (flammable, explosive or corrosive), and
  • Name and address of the chemical manufacturer.

Warning labels may also tell you how to store and dispose of the product properly. The label may indicate precautions to take, such as how to clean it up, and what personal protective equipment to use. First aid instructions may include antidotes for poisons and what steps to take when someone is exposed to the product.

If you need more information than is found on the label, check the MSDS or contact your supervisor or safety representative.


ToolBox Talk – Hazard Information and Container Labels

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About the author

Kent Leighton, Founder of The Flat Rock Group, has more than 40 years of experience in the Construction and Development Industry. Having owned a successful midsize General Contracting firm he understands the opportunities and trials of running a successful business enterprise. His passion is sharing his victories and his scars with leaders and managers to help them grow and prosper.