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Hazardous Material Signs | Dangerous Substances Storage Symbols

Updated on September 5, 2014

Safety Signage

OSHA regulations on safety signage state that all hazardous materials should be clearly marked with signs that indicate the kind of danger they pose.

Safety signage is the pillar of any successful OSHA program because without proper safety signage in the workplace, accidents will easily occur.

The following are the most important safety signs for hazardous material that are required for compliance with OSHA regulations.

Importance of Safety Signage

Labels and signs on hazardous materials are very important because they warn of the dangers posed by the materials.

They also give instructions on how to handle situations where accidents involving them has occurred.

There are many substances and chemicals that are stored in the workplace. These chemicals are used for various purposes such as cleansing, sanitising and also as stocks for forward transmission to customers.

The storage of these materials should be in compliance with OSHA rules and regulations which are meant to prevent accidents with hazards materials.

A key requirement of these rules involves signage and labelling that informs the users of the dangers of these materials as well as the best way of storing and handling them.

Biohazard Cleanup
Biohazard Cleanup | Source

The kinds of potential hazards that these materials pose include the following

  • Fires, explosions, violent reactions and pressure release hazards
  • Biohazards
  • Corrosion
  • Oxidization
  • Radioactivity

Signs and labels that warn of the dangers of hazardous materials are an important first step in preventing accidents in the workplace. The signage used has been standardized internationally so as to be easily identifiable and understandable where-ever in the world one may be. There are six common signs that involve hazardous material which are used the world over.

We will look at the importance of these signs and their importance in enhancing workplace health and safety. The important information that should be included in any hazardous material package must have the following key details:

  • Shipping location
  • Special or technical name
  • Permit number
  • Special hazard warning

In addition to the above, the packaging should also have information on how to store, a hazard warning statement, expiry dates, disposal instructions and applicable statutory regulations concerning the contents.

Biohazard Safety Signage
Biohazard Safety Signage | Source

Biohazard /Infectious Materials signs

Biohazard materials are of a biological nature and can cause harm to human beings when they come into contact with them. Examples of biohazards or infectious materials include human blood, samples of viruses and medical waste.

Oxidizing agent Safety Sign
Oxidizing agent Safety Sign | Source

Safety Signs Oxidizing Materials

Oxidizing materials are hazardous because they will release oxygen during the decomposition process. The oxygen so released will flame a fire even under conditions that would not normally support a fire.

These substance can also start a fire without a source of ignition and increase the rate of combustion by providing oxygen to the fire. Containers containing oxidising agents must be properly labelled and the storage should be in such a way that they do not leak.

Any leaking container must be immediately removed from the storage area and disposed of using the prescribed disposal method. The sign for oxidising agents is a circle with flame.

Hazard signage for corrosive materials
Hazard signage for corrosive materials | Source

Safety Signs for Corrosive Materials

Corrosive chemicals are usually acids and bases that will cause extensive damage to human tissues when they come into contact with them. The chemicals also have a damaging effect on other materials such as metal and will cause more damage to the chemical storage area that can lead to even more hazards arising from the contact with other chemicals.

The sign for these chemicals is a tilted test-tube with drops of chemicals falling onto a human hand that has been eaten into (by corrosion).

Signage for Flammable Materials
Signage for Flammable Materials | Source

Flammable and Combustible Materials

These substances can be easily ignited resulting in a fire and explosion, or both. When the flash point, or the temperature needed for the substance to release ignitable vapour is reached, the likelihood of a fire or explosion is very high.

Flash points will vary for different substances and can be as low as 22.8 degrees Celsius (73 degrees F) to trigger vaporisation resulting in a fire.

Highly reactive materials signage
Highly reactive materials signage

Dangerously Reactive Materials Signage

Dangerously reactive materials are substances that produce lethal gases when they react with water or undergo vigorous decomposition when exposed to high temperature or pressure.

An example of such a reaction is called vigorous polymerization which occurs when a substance reacts violently because of a change in the molecular structure.

The characteristics of these substances is that they are self-sustaining in that any heat or chemicals produced adds to further reaction of the substances.

Poisonous Substances Safety Sign
Poisonous Substances Safety Sign

Safety Signs for Poisons

Any storage location for poisonous substances must be clearly labelled as having the substances. The signage for poisons universally is a skull with two crossbones.

The label on the product will also contain the details of the kind of poison that it contains together with first aid measures.


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