Labels and warning signs play an important role in safety by informing employees and visitors that a hazard exists in an area. We must consider that researchers are not the only people that work in laboratories; maintenance, custodial, security, safety personnel, and department office staff may walk through the laboratories during their work day. All of these personnel must be able to identify what hazards are present in their area so that they can make sure that they are safe.
All containers must have a label which identifies the contents. Labels must include:
- Full chemical names—shorthand, abbreviation, and chemical formulas are not acceptable.
- Appropriate warnings—a symbol denoting what the hazard is associated with a particular chemical should be visible.
- Legible and in English—for personnel who speak English as a second language, feel free to create a secondary label in your home language, but the primary label must be legible and in English.
Here is an example of an appropriate label:
These labels are available through the EHS website. See instructions below.
Chemical labels can be generated from the EHS website by taking the following steps:
- Click on the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) hyperlink located on the left side of the page. ChemGold II or III, a program the EHS office subscribes to provide a MSDSs for the Case personnel, will load.
- Under SearchType at the top of the page, type the name of the chemical you want to generate a label for.
- A list will appear of chemicals that match your search. Choose the chemical that best matches your chemical.
- A description of the chemical will load. On the left-hand side of the screen there will be a list of quick links. Towards the bottom of that list will be the “Labels” button.
All laboratories must have appropriate labels indentifying what hazards are present in the laboratory and who is responsible for the space. This is easily done by posting caution signs indicating the top three hazards present in the workspace. Caution signs and labels can picked up from the EHS office in person, or they can be sent to you through campus mail by completing the Caution Sign and Label Order Form and submitting it to the EHS office at 368-2236.
Determining Required Labels
In order to determine what labels and warnings are required in a laboratory space, the Principle Investigator (PI) is required to conduct a risk assessment to determine the hazards associated with the procedures or processes conducted in their work environment. After this is completed appropriate warnings must be posted. In order to assist laboratories in determining what labels are required, the four tiered system shown below should be used.
Labels must be placed from left to right, in order of importance on the caution sign.
Tier 1 If these hazards are present in a work space a warning label MUST be posted. Case caution signs only allow for three hazards to be posted, if more than three of these types of hazards are present in the laboratory more caution signs will be needed.
- Radioactive-posted outside laboratories where radioactive materials are used or stored or where radioactive wastes are accumulated
- Biohazard–posted outside laboratories or storage rooms where viral, bacterial, rickettsial, fungal, and parasitic agents requiring containment at Biosafety Level 2 or greater are used or stored
- Cancer Hazard–posted outside laboratories or storage rooms where chemicals classified as suspect human or known human carcinogens. If a laboratory uses one of the OSHA Regulated Chemicals (formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, etc), chemical-specific signage is also required.
- Green Formaldehyde label
- Blue Benzene Label
- Gold Methylene Chloride
- Pink Vinyl Chloride
- Respirator Required–work environments that require the use of a respirator.
- Ultraviolet Light–areas where a UV light source is present.
- Laser Light–identify work environments that use lasers.
- Domestic refrigerators, microwaves, and cold rooms–In order to prevent the misuse of laboratory equipment and avoid possible exposure to chemicals, biological, and radiologicals: food and drink are prohibited from laboratory refrigerators, microwaves and all cold rooms. EHS requires that each of these items located in a laboratory or designated for laboratory use, have a “No Food or Drink” label posted in a visible location.
Tier 2 After all required Tier 1 warnings have been posted, the following labels should be examined next. If more than one of these hazards present it is the responsibility of the PI, through a proper risk assessment, to determine what hazard should take precedence over the other.
- Flammable Solvents–warns personnel that flammable solvents are used in the area
- Corrosive Materials–Areas where acids and/or bases are present
- Toxic Chemicals–Laboratories that have toxic chemicals
- Toxic Gas–areas that utilize toxic gas
- Chemical Storage Area–chemical stockrooms or storage rooms used by multiple users or high-volume users for chemicals storage.
Tier 3 After exhausting both Tier 1 and Tier 2, these labels can then be utilized at the PI’s discretion.
- Keep Out–identifying restricted areas to non-laboratory personnel
- Laboratory Animals–Areas that where research animals are kept
- Wear Ear Protection–Noise levels in a particular area reach high levels
- No Food or Drink
- Wear Protective Clothing
- Wear Eye Protection
- Wear Face Protection
Tier 4 these hazard warning must be posted depending on the type of hazard. EHS should be consulted.
- Electric Shock Hazard
- Thermal Hazard