Washington State University
Environmental Health & Safety Signage And Labelling

Signage And Labeling

Signage and labeling are important devices with which employees may be informed of hazardous conditions. Labels are required on containers of hazardous substances. Signs or placards are required on entrances to areas in which an employee may be subject to hazardous conditions.

1. Labels

  • Hazardous chemical labeling requirements are specified in OSHA and DOSH regulations.
    1. Labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals shall be readable and shall not be removed or defaced. If the package or container is sufficiently cleaned of residue and purged of vapors to remove any potential health or physical hazard, existing labels can be removed.
    2. WSU requires a written Chemical Hygiene Plan. As part of the Chemical Hygiene Plan, the Principal Investigator must develop a system for secondary labeling. The labeling system shall require hazardous chemical containers to be labeled with the following:
      1. Identity of the hazardous chemical(s) using either the chemical or common name, and
      2. Appropriate hazard warnings which give information about the relevant health and physical hazards of the chemical(s). This includes health effects information, such as information about organs most likely to be affected by the chemical(s).
  • Along with these requirements, it is good chemical hygiene practice and recommended that the date the chemical(s) was placed in the secondary container and the person’s name responsible for the container be provided on the label if more than one person will be working in the same laboratory work area and may not be in direct communication with the other laboratory workers and/or the container may include chemicals which will eventually become hazardous chemical waste. An exception is when the chemical will be used by the person who performed the transfer within his/her work shift.
    • If the secondary container is too small for a label, the label can be affixed to the container with a wire or affixed to the tray or shelf that holds the secondary container.
    • Using the form provided in the Chemical Hygiene Plan Guide the Principal Investigator or Supervisor must describe in detail, the secondary chemical labeling system used in their laboratory and the person responsible for ensuring the secondary labeling requirements are met.
    • Principal Investigators or Supervisors must provide information and training to laboratory employees with regards to the labeling system so employees are able to protect themselves from the hazards. Also, principal investigators or supervisors must inform non-laboratory personnel (e.g., maintenance workers, custodial personnel, etc.) entering their laboratory of the potential hazards that may be present. Information can be obtained from the labels and Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). SDS received with incoming shipments of hazardous chemicals must be readily accessible to laboratory employees / workers while they are in the laboratory.
    • Contents of waste receptacles must be labeled following proper guidelines:
    • Described below are two secondary (or workplace) container labeling methods used on campus and the form to be used by the principal investigator to describe in detail, the secondary container chemical labeling system used in the laboratory and the person responsible for ensuring the secondary container labeling requirements are met:
      • The  National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hazard diamond or the Hazardous Materials Information System (HMIS) are commercially available labeling systems that use color coding and numeric ratings. When the NFPA or HMIS systems are used, employees must receive information and training on reading and using the system.
      • A blank label may also be used for secondary container labeling. It is recommended that the identity of the chemical (product identifier), the signal word (Danger for severe, Warning for less severe), the hazard statement(s), and pictogram(s) be placed on the label by consulting the original label or SDS.  In lieu of those four elements, the product identifier may be used along with words, pictures, symbols, or a combination thereof, that provide general information about the hazards and in conjunction with information and training, provide the employee with specific information regarding the  physical and health hazards of the chemical. More information on secondary container labels, including downloadable EH&S developed label templates, can be found on the page for Workplace Labels for Chemicals.
  • Secondary Labeling System description:
    Use the pdf file for Secondary Labeling System: Secondary Labeling System pdf file

2. Signage / Placards

  • A laboratory signage program has been implemented to improve worker protection, emergency response capabilities, and enhance security for laboratories. A sign holder is provided at the entrance to each laboratory requiring signage. Using the Laboratory Signage Program, the Principal Investigator develops a sign with the requested information and displays the completed sign at the entrance to the laboratory. The completed sign provides important information regarding emergency contact (Department Name, Location, Contact Number During Business Hours and Non-Business Hours), Area Hazards and Warnings, and Minimum Personal Protective Equipment Required Before Entry. For detailed information, contact EH&S at 335-3041.
  • Laboratory warning placards typically contain a general indication of the type of hazard associated with the laboratory. Specific regulatory standards require specific placards. If a specific regulatory standard requires a placard (e.g., Radiation Symbol, Laser Warning Sign, Biohazard Symbol, etc.), then the Laboratory Signage Program does not replace these placards

3. Stickers and Equipment Labels

  1. Emergency response telephone numbers (e.g., fire, police, ambulance, etc, – 911) should be posted on each telephone.
  2. Location signs should be posted for safety showers, eyewash stations, fire extinguishers, first aid equipment, exits, and other safety equipment.  Refrigerators and freezers are to be signed as “No Food or Drink” areas.
  3. Laboratory water faucets should be labeled as “non-potable” (not for drinking purposes). Per the Uniform Plumbing Code and the WSU Cross-Connection Control Program, the faucet labels shall state “CAUTION: NON-POTABLE WATER. DO NOT DRINK”. Laboratory safety showers and eyewash stations must also be labeled as containing non-potable water (Reference SPPM 5.15). Contact EH&S at 335-3041 for more information.
  4. Warning signs should be posted in areas or on equipment where special or unusual hazards exist.