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OSHA HCS: Label Element Allocation and General Label Updates

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June 12, 2024

OSHA Published Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) Series 

Blog Post 3: Label Element Allocation and General Label Updates

By now, you’re well-acquainted with our thorough examination of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) final rule. Subsequent to this, we published, Blog Post 2: Physical and Health Hazard Classification Updates. In this third Blog Post, we will cover updates to the allocation of label elements and general label updates.     

Learn more by checking out CHEMTREC's full blog series for OSHA HCS Updates:

OSHA Blog Series Image

What Did Not Change

OSHA has maintained the fundamental label requirements, label elements or how the elements should be applied to the label. This means chemical manufacturers and importers will still be required to provide a label on each container leaving the workplace. For hazardous chemicals, labels must include a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category as well as precautionary statements.

HCS Pictogram Changes

OSHA has adopted minor changes in the allocation of pictograms:   

  • The US Department of Transportation (DOT) placards: OSHA has acknowledged that DOT updated their regulation permitting HCS pictograms on containers. Therefore, OSHA has updated the HCS to indicate, while not obligatory, that the HCS pictogram may be on a shipping container where a DOT placard denotes the same hazard.
  • Exclamation Mark pictogram: OSHA has indicated that it will allow (but not require) the use of the Exclamation Mark pictogram for Hazards Not Otherwise Classified (HNOC) on a label. This change facilitates compliance with both U.S. and Canadian requirements for HNOC hazards, as Canadian regulations require a pictogram on the labels for their HNOC hazard classes.

Labeling Accommodations Updates

After OSHA updated the HCS in 2012, to align with the GHS, several challenges were identified as companies were converting their labels to conform with the new requirements. This final rule addresses some of these challenges and offers accommodations for manufacturers, importers, and distributors.

  • OSHA provided accommodation for when a manufacturer, importer, or distributor must physically relabel a container upon becoming aware of any significant information regarding the hazards of the chemical. While the label must be revised within six months, OSHA permits manufacturers to maintain the outdated label on a container that has been packaged and is awaiting future distribution,  provided that updated labels are provided for each individual container within the shipment
  • OSHA updated how manufacturers, importers, or distributors should label small containers (< 100 ml capacity) if it is not feasible to use the full label on the container (such as with the use of pull-out labels, fold-back labels or tags). OSHA has also provided accommodation for very small packages (< 3 ml) where the label interferes with the normal use of the container.
  • OSHA had a long-standing policy allowing flexibility on labeling on bulk shipments where the immediate container is the mode of transportation (i.e., contained in tanker truck, rail car, or intermodal container). In this case, OSHA will allow the label to be either on the immediate container, transmitted with shipping papers, bills of lading, or transmitted by other technological or electronic means so that it is immediately available to workers in printed form on the receiving end of a shipment. In this final rule OSHA has codified this long-standing accommodation.  

Label Elements Changes

In this OSHA final rule, in addition to adding the elements for the newly identified hazard classes such as desensitized explosives and chemicals under pressure, OSHA has made some changes in the instructions on how to apply the label elements. 

  • OSHA has indicated that the same pictogram may not be on the label multiple times. This means even if a specific pictogram is triggered by multiple hazards, it should only appear on the label once. 
  • OSHA has also finalized several changes related to precautionary statements: 
    • Guidance on how the label preparer can combine multiple precautionary statements related to medical response.
    • Updated precautionary statements to align with GHS Revision 7. These changes were made to improve the applicability of the statements for the hazards either by updating the phrasing or conditions on when to apply the statements.
    • Updated the required elements on the label to specify that address and telephone of the responsible party on the label must be a U.S. address and U.S. telephone number. Finally, OSHA did not adopt the proposed requirement to add the “release for shipment date” on the label.  

For more details about what the Hazard Communication Standard includes, view the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard pdf

Have questions? Submit your questions to our SDS team at by June 21 to be answered in an additional blog post.

 Please note: These are the author’s opinions and should not be taken as OSHA’s interpretation nor do they represent legal advice. Readers should consult with a qualified attorney for advice on a specific legal issue. The information provided is based on the author’s understanding of the regulation at the time of writing. This blog’s main purpose is to inform readers of the published Hazard Communication Standard. To keep up with OSHA’s latest updates on the final HCS rule, follow CHEMTREC on social media: Facebook | X | LinkedIn 

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