7.8 Chemical Labeling7.8 Chemical Labeling
The simple rule for chemical labeling is - if a container looks like it contains a chemical (even a clear liquid), then it must be labeled with the contents. Proper labeling of chemicals is one way of informing people who work in laboratories of potential hazards that exist, preventing the generation of unknowns, and facilitating emergency responses such as cleaning up spills and obtaining the proper medical treatment.
New chemical containers have the proper labeling information on the chemical label. The OSHA Laboratory Standard requires that labels on all incoming containers must be maintained and not defaced. As part of laboratory good housekeeping and self-inspections, if any chemical labels appear to be falling off, then laboratory personnel should tape the label back on the container or relabel with a permanent label.
7.8.1 Non-Original Containers7.8.1 Non-Original Containers
Non-original containers (secondary use containers) such as wash bottles, squirt bottles, temporary storage containers, beakers, flasks, bottles, vials, etc. or any container that a chemical from an original container is transferred into, must be properly labeled. In general, EHS recommends writing out the full chemical name and any hazards associated with that chemical. Laboratory personnel are strongly encouraged to use commercially available pre-labeled containers (such as squirt bottles) for chemicals that get used frequently. However, labs can also choose to label chemical containers in other ways such as:
1. Abbreviations - Structures and Formulas
Use of abbreviations such as structures, formulas, or acronyms is acceptable. However, if you use any abbreviations, you must hang up a “key” to the abbreviations in a visible location (preferably close to the chemicals and/or by the door). The “key” must contain the abbreviation and the name of the chemical. Including the hazards of the chemical on the “key” is also useful information. A sample fill-in the blank key can be found on the EHS Signs and Labels webpage. The abbreviation key must be readily available upon request by visitors, emergency responders, and state and federal regulatory agencies such as EPA, OSHA, or New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) inspectors.
2. Small Containers and Sample Storage:
For small containers, such as vials and eppendorf tubes, which may be too small to write out a chemical name, structure, or formula, laboratories can implement other systems to identify the chemicals such as:
- Placing the vial or small container in a Ziploc bag or other type of overpack container (beaker, plastic bottle, etc.) and labeling the overpack container with the chemical name.
- Laboratories can use “price tag” style labels in which the chemical name is written out on a tag, and the tag is then attached to the small container with string or a rubber band.
- For vials in a test tube rack – laboratory personnel can simply label the rack with the chemical name, and then label the vials with an abbreviation, color, number, or letter code that corresponds to the label on the test tube rack. For example, if a lab had 10 small vials of ethanol in one rack, the rack could be labeled a 1-E = Ethanol. All of the vials would then be labeled as 1-E. Be sure that the number or letter code is clearly identifiable and would not be confused with other chemicals in the lab.
- For preserved specimens, bottles should be labeled with the preservative (i.e. ethanol or formaldehyde). A large number of these labels could easily be produced on the computer using Avery style mailing labels.
- For sample storage in refrigerators, laboratory personnel should label sample containers with one of the above methods, including labeling boxes that hold the small vials or chemical containers. Laboratories should include a key to any abbreviations on the outside of the refrigerator and label the key as “Sample Storage abbreviation = chemical name”.
3. Number, Letter, and Color Codes:
For vials and other small containers, laboratory personnel can make use of number, letter, and color-coded systems as long as a “key” is hung up which clearly identifies the chemical name that the number, letter, or color code represents. While this type of system is available for laboratory personnel to use, EHS does not recommend using such a system for hazardous chemicals. Such a system would be more appropriate for non-hazardous compounds such as agar and buffer solutions.
7.8.2 Labeling Requirements7.8.2 Labeling Requirements
In all cases, regardless of the labeling system used, the following labeling requirements must be followed:
- All chemical containers (both hazardous and non-hazardous) MUST be labeled. Chemical names must be written out in English. If a label is starting to fall off a chemical container or is becoming degraded, then the container needs to be relabeled (using tape, permanent marker, OSHA secondary labels, etc.) or the chemical needs to be transferred to another properly labeled container.
- If abbreviations such as formulas, structures, or acronyms are used, then a “key” to the abbreviations must be hung up in a conspicuous location.
- All personnel working in the laboratory must be fully trained on how to label chemicals using the system and how to understand the labeling system. Training must occur when a new person begins working in the laboratory, when new chemicals are introduced, and should occur on a regular basis or annually.