Know Your Hazard Symbols (Pictograms)

Aug. 22, 2016

Hazard symbols have come a long way from the rudimentary drawings used to designate poison in the early 1800s.

As a result of updated OSHA chemical labeling requirements, 2016 marks the first full year of adoption of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) in the U.S.

The GHS system, part of OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), consists of nine symbols, or pictograms, providing recognition of the hazards associated with certain substances. Use of eight of the nine are mandatory in the U.S., the exception being the environmental pictogram (see below). 

Each pictogram covers a specific type of hazard and is designed to be immediately recognizable to anyone handling hazardous material. 

In addition to pictograms, labels are required to include a signal word (“danger” or “warning”), a brief hazard statement and a precautionary statement outlining ways to prevent exposure. 

Pictograms and Descriptions

Health Hazard: A cancer-causing agent (carcinogen) or substance with respiratory, reproductive or organ toxicity that causes damage over time (a chronic, or long-term, health hazard).  

Health Hazard

Health Hazard

Flame: Flammable materials or substances liable to self ignite when exposed to water or air (pyrophoric), or which emit flammable gas.

Flame

Flame

Exclamation Mark: An immediate skin, eye or respiratory tract irritant, or narcotic. 

Exclamation Mark

Exclamation Mark

Gas Cylinder: Gases stored under pressure, such as ammonia or liquid nitrogen.

Gas Cylinder

Gas Cylinder

Corrosion: Materials causing skin corrosion/burns or eye damage on contact, or that are corrosive to metals.

Corrosion

Corrosion

Exploding Bomb: Explosives, including organic peroxides and highly unstable material at risk of exploding even without exposure to air (self-reactives). 

Exploding Bomb

Exploding Bomb

Flame Over Circle: Identifies oxidizers. Oxidizers are chemicals that facilitate burning or make fires burn hotter and longer. 

Flame Over Circle

Flame Over Circle

Skull and Crossbones: Substances, such as poisons and highly concentrated acids, which have an immediate and severe toxic effect (acute toxicity).  

Skull and Crossbones

Skull and Crossbones

Environmental Hazard: Chemicals toxic to aquatic wildlife. (Non-Mandatory)

Environment

Environment