By: Millwright
1 February 2003

   Industry today has to comply with the "HMIS" system of identifying and marking the hazardous materials used in their processes and facilities. This system is designed to give the user of the material (or anyone exposed to the material) a quick reference as to the proper equipment and precautions needed to handle the material.  The intent of HMIS is to label each container of material with a color coded placard or sticker rating the material's HEALTH risks, potential FLAMMABILITY and the material's REACTIVITY to heat, pressure or water. Also included on the label is a coded designation of the proper PERSONAL PROTECTION EQUIPMENT (PPE) necessary to handle the equipment safely. These labels will be found on drums, bags, bottles, boxes and all containers.

Knowing how to read these labels could be a life saver for those of us living in or near industrial areas!

Current HMIS label

Inside the white boxes on the right will be a number between 0 and 4.

0.......Minimal Hazard
1..........Slight Hazard
2........Moderate Hazard
3..........Serious Hazard
4..........Severe Hazard
In some cases you may see an asterisk ( * ) by the number in the HEALTH
box. This means there is a long term (chronic) risk.

The label above is showing a material that has a moderate HEALTH risk (2), a slight
FLAMMABILITY rating and is a serious REACTIVITY hazard when exposed to heat, pressure or water.

To the right side of the PERSONAL PROTECTION box will be a letter
or letters of the alphabet designating the proper PPE needed to handle the material.
The label above requires eye protection and gloves when handling this material (B) and the
eye protection must be splash goggles (n). It's important to note that the health risk rating covers both long term (chronic) and short term (acute) effects from exposure.

The chart below is a scan of a wallet card identifying the PPE codes and giving the numerical
hazard codes. You may want to cut it out and laminate it. It's pretty easy to remember that the higher the number or letter, the more dangerous the material.


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