HazCom Compliance Standards Overview

One of the challenges of implementing a successful hazardous communication system in any organization is on recognizing the various standards that currently exist.  In today’s article we will briefly outline some of the various standards in use around the world.  Over the coming months we will go into more detail on these standards.

NFPA Standard – In the US we have the well known multi-colored diamond created by the National Fire Protection Association.  The NFPA diamond is divided up into 4 sections:

Blue – Health hazard indication with a 0-4 scale, with 4 being the most dangerous.
Yellow – Reactivity (0-4 scale)
Red – Flammability (0-4 scale)
White – Special hazards go in this section.  Especially useful for notifying people that there are products that react to water.

This standard was originally designed primarily for firefighters and other first responders.  It is common to place the diamond placards in locations where hazardous materials are stored.  This standard is also known as NFPA 704, based on the section in the NFPA code.

HMIS® Standard – Which stands for Hazardous Materials Identification System and was created by the National Paint & Coatings Association.  The HMIS® system is very similar to the NFPA.  Instead of a diamond though it is rectangular.

Blue – Health, with the same type of 0-4 scale as NFPA
Red – Flammability, with the same type of 0-4 scale as NFPA
Orange – Physical Hazard (NOTE: It is important to realize that up until 2002 the orange bar was yellow and labeled reactivity.
White – Personal Protection.  This section shows the needed personal protective equipment or PPE required when handling the labeled substance.  There is both a pictogram and a letter code indication.

In the majority of MSDSs the ratings for HMIS® and NFPA are usually the same.  However they may be different so one shouldn’t make assumptions.

CHIP – Chemicals Hazard Information and Packaging for Supply is used in the United Kingdom mainly.  This has introduced us to risk phrase and safety phrase classification codes.  Also sometimes referred to simply as “EU Risk Codes”.

REACH – For Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, While mainly related to chemical manufacturers, it mandates that all “downstream users” be provided with necessary hazard data, such as with a safety data sheet.

DOT/UN Numbers – While not a full standard for implementing chemical hazard information, the Department of Transportation originally created a standard numbering system for use during hazardous transportation.  The intent being of a universal look up system so first responders would be able to easily identify how to handle spills and other incidents.

GHS – Global Harmonized System – This is the first truly global system.  The intent is to overtime, replace all of the national and regional standards with a single system.  So no mater where you are, or what language you speak you will be able to understand this universal system.

HMIS® is a registered trademark of National Paint & Coatings Association (NPCA).