How To Read HMIS Labels

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

If you work in any industrial warehouse, you have probably seen the diamond-shaped Hazardous Material Information Safety (HMIS) label with four squares colored blue, red, yellow and white. It gets your immediate attention. Here is how to read this HMIS label.

“When Should the HMIS Label Be Used?”

Along with the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), the HMIS label should be used to prepare workers for handling boxes, cartons or containers that contain toxic chemicals. Storage warehouses, transportation, parcel delivery and stores may all handle hazardous materials every day. If not handled properly, these chemicals could cause serious harm, if not death. The HMIS label helps workers prevent these accidents.

Not every one speaks English or is literate. The HMIS labels use numbers, colors, letters, symbols and images to describe the contents of a container. This label is required when the original contents of a container have been moved to a secondary container. The packing individual must place a label sticker on the outside to describe the package contents.

The HMIS label helps an organization prepare for handling hazardous items. Precautions could include protective clothing, controlled temperature, loading and storage. Some toxic chemicals should not be stored or transported next to each other because they may react with one another.

“Four HMIS Criteria”

The HMIS sticker has a place to record the Name and Date of the chemical. Hazardous material information is also important if there is a mishap. Rescue workers will know what type of dangers they are dealing with immediately. There is a list with four spaces on the HMIS sticker: Health, Flammability, Reactivity and Personal Protection.

The scale for the Hazard Rating Chart is as follows: 0 is Minimal, 1 is Slight, 2 is Moderate, 3 is Serious and 4 is Severe. The Severe Hazard is life-threatening.

The Flammability Rating Chart is 0 for Nonflammable, 1 for Slight, 2 for Moderate, 3 for Serious and 4 for Severe. The Severe Flammability level includes volatile liquids with flash points below 73 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Reactivity Rating Chart is 0 for Minimal, 1 for Slight, 2 for Moderate, 3 for Serious and 4 for Severe. This is reaction to moisture, temperature or pressure.

The Personal Protection Index has letters identifying different safety equipment the user should wear from A to Z. These include items like safety goggles, gloves, boots and a full face respirator.

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