OSHA Labels versus DOT Labels - Know the Difference


Know the difference between OSHA and DOT Labels for Hazardous Chemicals

What are OSHA Labels and DOT Labels?

As part of chemical safety, there are regulations on the labels used on hazardous chemicals. For businesses in the United States, the two main types of hazardous chemical labels encountered are OSHA labels and DOT labels.

OSHA for Workplace, DOT for Transportation

OSHA Labels

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Department of Labor (DOL) regulates labels used in the workplace. The requirements for the labels are part of the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and can be found at 29 CFR 1910.1200(f).

Required Label Elements

  1. Product Identifier, matching the identifier used on the safety data sheet
  2. Signal Word, either Warning or Danger
  3. Hazard Statements, indicating the hazardous properties of the chemical
  4. Pictograms, visual indications of the general type of hazard
  5. Precautionary Statements, indicating what precautionary measures need to be taken for the safe handling and storage of the chemical
  6. Name, Address, and Telephone Number of the chemical manufacturer, importer, or other responsible party

On a container that is being shipped, to ensure safety in all involved workplaces, from the facility the package is leaving to its destination, all six label elements must be present on the package.

The first five label elements are needed for containers remaining in the workplace, either as a label directly on the container, in the form of a sign in the work area, or within work procedures.

Learn more about the Five Elements of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard.

DOT Labels

The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates labels used in transportation. The requirements for the labels are part of Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) and can be found at 49 CFR 172.400.

In the HMR, a label refers to a pictogram that is generally applied to a non-bulk package.

DOT Labels Example Category 2 Flammable Gas

Here is an example of a DOT label. The DOT label categories correspond to the DOT Hazard Classes, plus an additional label for Cargo Aircraft Only and Empty. The Hazard Class labels are in the format of a square-on-point, or a diamond, have a specific pictogram for the type of hazard, and are color-coded. Downloadable PDF and PNG versions of the Hazmat Label designs can be found here: Downloadable Hazmat Placards.

  • Class 1 Explosives
  • Class 2 Gasses
  • Class 3 Flammable Liquids
  • Class 4 Flammable Solids
  • Class 5 Oxidizing Substances and Organic Peroxides
  • Class 6 Toxic Substances and Infectious Substances
  • Class 7 Radioactive Materials
  • Class 8 Corrosive Substances
  • Class 9 Miscellaneous Hazardous Materials
Learn more about DOT Hazmat Labels.

What Hazardous Chemical Labels Do I Need To Use?

The labels needed on a package containing a hazardous chemical will depend on what the material is and where it is going, or not going. The first document to check will be the Safety Data Sheet, which should be provided by the manufacturer or importer of the material. Section 2 identifies the physical and health hazards for the OSHA label. Section 14 identifies the transportation hazards which will be used for the DOT label.

  • Is there a Hazardous Chemical in the Container?
    • If No, there is no need for a hazardous chemical label.
    • If Yes, consider where the container is being used.
  • Will the Container of Hazardous Chemical(s) be Shipped or Transported?
    • If No, then an OSHA Label with 5 Elements is needed for the Workplace.
    • If Yes, then an OSHA Label with 6 Elements AND a DOT Label is needed for Transportation.
if a chemical is considered hazardous, it will require a form of hazardous chemical label, containers remaining in the workplace require a 5 element OSHA label, while containers being transported, if on the DOT Hazardous Materials Table, will require a 6 Element OSHA Label and DOT Shipping Label

Original Posting Date: Apr. 12, 2023

Last Updated: Apr. 10, 2024


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