As part of regulations in place to improve employee safety, the presence of chemicals is governed by OSHA and the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication (GHS).These standards specify the appropriate labeling, organization, and safety protocols for hazardous chemicals in order to protect employees from the risks associated with improper handling. To improve GHS compliance in industrial facilities, learn about OSHA’s requirements and follow these steps to ensure chemical safety in the workplace.

1. Label Primary and Secondary Chemical Containers

OSHA follows GHS, which requires that hazardous chemical containers be marked with a standardized label regardless of their country of origin. When a chemical arrives from its manufacturer, it should be labeled with appropriate safety information that corresponds with an included Safety Data Sheet (SDS). This information includes a harmonized signal word (“warning” or “danger”), a hazard statement, and a GHS pictogram that communicates the risks associated with each chemical. These standardized labeling methods help ensure understanding, even in the event of language barriers. 

What Are SDS Secondary Container Labels?

New GHS Label

When hazardous substances are removed from the original container and transferred into spray bottles or other smaller containers, those containers are also governed by GHS chemical labeling guidelines. These standards require that any containers chemicals are poured into must be properly marked with the chemical name and the hazards present. With our SDS labels for secondary containers, this is easy: From signal words to GHS-standardized hazard pictograms, each piece of safety information found on the chemical’s original label can be included on the new container when an employee transfers the data from one to the other. 

Why Label Secondary Containers?

Labeling secondary containers not only increases safety for employees, it is also a requirement for OSHA compliance. For small businesses, marking each secondary container may seem minor—but a typical OSHA fine for not properly labeling containers according to GHS guidelines is about $3,000, making it imperative to adhere to the standard.

2. Create a Straightforward System for Chemical Organization 

A key component of chemical safety in the workplace is ensuring each item is stored and labeled appropriately. Chemicals should be organized according to their composition and intended purpose, with distinct, convenient storage areas in each relevant work area. For better chemical storage, you may choose to create a color-coded organizational system that uses heavy-duty floor tape to outline areas to indicate where each chemical product should be stored. Then, mark individual bottles with matching strips of tape to ensure they’re returned to the proper place. Similarly, you may decide to label shelves or rack areas with custom floor signs or rack labels that indicate what chemicals may be stored where. This method of chemical labeling can supplement labels required by GHS and create an easy-to-identify, easy-to-implement approach to organization.

3. Make Safety Data Sheets Readily Accessible 

GHS requires safety data sheets and labeling to standardize hazard communication for chemicals regardless of country of origin or language used by the chemical producer. OSHA and GHS stipulate that companies must obtain and make readily accessible to employees the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) that comes with each chemical. To avoid OSHA violations regarding safety data sheets, create an organized SDS station in each work area so that employees know where to find the relevant materials. We carry pre-cut floor marking kits designed specifically to clearly indicate the preferred storage area for safety data sheets. 

4. Educate Employees on Chemical Safety

OSHA requires adequate, ongoing training of employees regarding chemical safety and GHS-compliant practices. Consistent education is integral to ensuring each employee that handles hazardous chemicals is familiar with established safety protocol and proper methods for labeling—to the “extent necessary to protect them in the event of a spill or leak of a hazardous chemical from a sealed container.”¹ Employees should be familiar with how to interpret GHS labels on primary and secondary containers, including what each pictogram communicates and what the related signal words convey.

Appropriate labeling of secondary containers and convenient access to safety data sheets are part of a comprehensive approach to the GHS compliance required by OSHA. Along with other facility safety and maintenance supplies, our high-quality GHS labels for small and large containers can help you accommodate the globally harmonized guidelines. For more on safety, efficiency, and compliance in industrial workplaces, explore our Resource Center