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GHS Pictogram Meanings

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The pictogram concept tends to be a confusing aspect of the GHS system, especially given its contextual use depending on the hazard category of a class, or specific target audience. To better aide ones understanding of pictograms, this guide serves to thoroughly explain the many GHS pictogram meanings; the starting point being defining what a pictogram actually is.

 

The 6th revised edition of The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals defines a pictogram as ‘a graphical composition that may include a symbol plus other graphic elements, such as a border, background pattern or colour that is intended to convey specific information.’ In terms of GHS’s hazard communications system, pictograms are required on the labels of hazardous chemical products, consisting of exact reproductions of the GHS prescribed black hazard symbols, on a white background contained within a wide, red and square-shaped frame that sits atop a single point. Use of pictograms on (M)SDSs need not be exact reproductions of that used on chemical labels, but some representation (the identification code, a written descriptor, the black hazard symbol) of it, which is to be provided in the Hazard Identification section. GHS pictogram meanings can be dissected through analysis of the graphical illustration used, the written descriptor of each symbol, and which hazards are to be associated with the overall pictogram. GHS pictogram meanings can also be differentiated into two pictogram sets that make use of the same hazard symbols. The pictogram description above comprises the set used for labels of hazardous chemicals used in the workplace; the other set, alters its use of colour and the way in which info is represented as it instead is used for the labelling of dangerous goods that are to be transported. This guide focuses on GHS pictogram meanings for pictograms that are to be put on labels of hazardous products used in the workplace.

 

The chart below lists which hazard classes, categories, and sub-categories are to be represented by a specific pictogram. A brief description of what the pictogram encompasses is also included.

 

Pictograms & Descriptions of the Hazardous Symbols

Hazard Classes/Categories

Sub-Categories

Flammable

A material (gas, liquid, solid) that rapidly catches fire upon ignition or combustion

 

Flammable Gases

1

Flammable Aerosols

1, 2

Flammable Liquids

1, 2, 3

Flammable Solids

1,2

Self-reactive Substance or

Mixtures

B,C,D,E,F

Pyrophoric Liquids

1

Pyrophoric Solids

1

Self-heating substances or mixtures

1, 2

Substances which when in contact with water, emit flammable gases

1, 2, 3

Organic Peroxides

B, C, D, E, F,

Corrosion

May be corrosive to metals; chemically reacts to damage or destroy other materials

Skin Corrosion; irreversible damage to skin through chemical reactivity with substance, such that visible necrosis (cell death) causes ulcers, bleeding and bloody scabs to dermis

Corrosive to Metals

1

Flammable Gases

2

Self-reactive substances and mixtures

G

Organic Peroxides

 

 

G

 

Skin Corrosion

1A, 1B, 1C

 

Serious Eye Damage

 

1

Gas Cylinder

Represents any gases under pressure that are contained in a receptacle at a pressure of 200kPa or more at 20°C

Compressed Gas

 

Liquefied Gas

Refrigerated Liquefied Gas

Dissolved Gas

 

Oxidizing

Any gas which may combine with oxygen to cause or contribute to combustion of other material more than the air does

Oxidizing Gases

1

Oxidizing Liquids

 

1, 2, 3

Oxidizing Solids

1, 2, 3

Explosives

A reactive substance that through its chemical reactivity is capable of producing a gas that can damage the surrounding environment due to its high temperature, pressure, and speed. Pyrotechnic substances are included despite lack of gas reactivity.

Unstable Explosives

 

Explosives

Divisions 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4

Self-reactive substances and mixtures

A, B

Organic Peroxides

A, B

Health Hazard

A chemical substance that upon exposure, may cause acute or chronic health effects as determined by statistically significant results from related studies

Respiratory Sensitization

1

   Germ-cell Mutagenicity  

1A, 1B, 2

Carcinogenicity

1A, 1B, 2

Reproductive Toxicity

1A, 1B, 2

Specific target organ toxicity following single exposure

1, 2

Specific target organ toxicity following repeated exposure

1, 2

Aspiration Hazard

1, 2

Environmental Hazard

Chemical substance may contribute to disruption of aquatic ecosystems, unregulated bio- accumulation or availability,  cause consequential effects to the ozone layer

Acute hazards to aquatic environment

1, 2

Chronic hazards to aquatic environment

 

1, 2

Skull and Crossbones - Toxic

Can cause death or toxicity upon oral, dermal, or inhaled exposure to small amount of substance even in a short duration of time

Acute Toxicity – Oral, Dermal, Inhalation

1, 2, 3

Exclamation Mark - Harmful

Used for hazards of lower grade severity in which the adverse effects are not as consequential

 

 

Acute  Toxicity – Oral, Dermal, Inhalation

4

Skin Irritation

2, 3

Eye Irritation

2A

Skin Sensitization

1

Specific target organ toxicity following single exposure for

  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Narcotic Effects

3

 

 Physical Hazards

 

 

 

Explosives

Divisions 1.5, 1.6

Flammable Gases

2

Self-reactive substances

G

Organic Peroxides

G

Health Hazards

 

 

 

Acute Toxicity – oral, dermal, inhalation

5

 

Eye irritation

2B

Reproductive Toxicity

  • Effects on lactation

 

Environmental Hazards

 

 

 

 

 

Acute hazards to aquatic environment

3, 4

Chronic hazards to aquatic environment

 

3, 4

 

 

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