Now let's get into more detail about exactly what these hazard pictograms mean:
1. Gas under pressure
This hazard pictogram indicates gases which are stored under pressure, such as ammonia. The symbol depicts a gas cylinder because this is a common example of something that is found at certain organisations. To protect your employees, make sure these cylinders are always checked to avoid a potential leak.
2. Dangerous for the environment
Showing an environment with chemicals that are harmful to species living in water, this pictogram indicates substances which are dangerous for the environment. Make sure all employees carefully use chemicals with this label and dispose of them in the proper way.
The skull and crossbones is a familiar symbol to most of us, as this is used to indicate something that is toxic if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed. Provide the proper training on such chemicals so employees are aware and can take the proper steps to avoid harm.
4. Health hazard
In addition to toxic substances, there are several which can cause health hazards irritating the skin and eyes, respiratory tract, and more. This pictogram shows a picture of an exclamation mark. Health hazards are a serious risk to your people, so ensure they all are trained to properly use such chemical products and are given the necessary personal protective equipment.
This pictogram shows a flame which means this substance is flammable. Substances that can ignite or catch on fire can be very dangerous to your teams, so provide training on how to deal with these products.
This pictogram, showing a circle which appears to be on fire, indicates that this chemical product can react with others and release oxidising substances. This is dangerous because such chemicals can cause fires or explosions.
Chemical products that have the potential to explode can cause serious risks to your employees. This pictogram shows a bomb exploding, so it’s up to you to provide the necessary training to employees so they know how to handle such a substance.
8. Serious health hazard
Certain substances have the potential to cause serious damage to the health of your people. This pictogram, showing someone with internal damage, is usually found on chemical products that can affect internal organs, fertility, and more.
Chemicals that can be extremely harmful to your skin or objects around you are labelled corrosive. This pictogram depicts skin and specific materials that are damaged because of this substance. All employees must learn how to properly use such products and be given the necessary PPE.
What are Hazard Statements, Precautionary Statements, and Signal Words?
In addition to hazard pictograms, COSHH labels and safety data sheets can also include hazard statements, precautionary statements, and signal words. Combined, these will help paint a clearer picture of the hazardous substance and how to reduce risk on site.
Let’s break down what each of these means:
- Hazard statements: A hazard statement provides more information on the hazard within the substance. Phrases like, may cause irritation or toxic if swallowed, are an example of a hazard statement.
- Precautionary statements: A precautionary statement explains how to minimise health hazards which may arise from exposure to a hazardous substance when interacting with it. An example of this would include wearing specific types of PPE.
- Signal words: Under CLP regulations, two signal words may appear on COSHH labels: Danger or Warning. If the substance may result in a serious hazard, the signal word Danger will appear, while if it is not as serious the signal word Warning will be written.
Below is an example of section two found within a safety data sheet, which includes a hazard pictogram, signal word, and hazard statements:
It’s important that you and your teams are aware of all these statements before working with a specific substance.
COSHH Next Steps
Have you given your employees the information and training necessary when working with hazardous substances? Are you confident they can find information within an SDS or recognise hazard pictograms on COSHH labels to reduce risk? Making sure your employees understand how to interact with these substances is a key part of managing chemical risk at the workplace.
With a multitude of harmful chemicals in the world, it can be difficult to properly shield your employees from all the dangers they may pose- that’s why we’ve created: A Best Practice Guide to Managing Chemical Risk. This guide outlines steps you can take within your organisation to effectively manage chemical safety for a safer place to work.
Ready to level up your approach to chemical safety? Download our guide now: