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.

Chemical Containers

All containers must have a label which identifies the contents. Labels must include:

  1. Full chemical names—shorthand, abbreviation, and chemical formulas are not acceptable.
  2. Appropriate warnings—a symbol denoting what the hazard is associated with a particular chemical should be visible.
  3. 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:

A typical chemical label from ChemGold includes warnings, things to avoid, and any NFPA symbols.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:

  1. 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.
  2. Under SearchType at the top of the page, type the name of the chemical you want to generate a label for.
  3. A list will appear of chemicals that match your search. Choose the chemical that best matches your chemical.
  4. 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.

Laboratory Entrances

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.

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.

Tier 3 After exhausting both Tier 1 and Tier 2, these labels can then be utilized at the PI’s discretion.

Tier 4 these hazard warning must be posted depending on the type of hazard. EHS should be consulted.

EHS | Service Building, first floor | 2220 Circle Dr | Cleveland, Ohio 44106 | 216.368.2906/2907 |
© 2011 Case Western Reserve University | Cleveland, Ohio 44106 | 216.368.2000 | legal notice