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The use of OSHA (GHS) Pictograms and USDOT HazMat Labels on the Same Packaging

The use of OSHA (GHS) Pictograms and USDOT HazMat Labels on the Same Packaging

Are the GHS-compliant pictograms required by the revised OSHA HazCom Standard allowed to be displayed on a packaging that also displays the HazMat Labels (and other markings) required by the USDOT/PHMSA?

The short answer is yes.  Though current OSHA regulations have confused the issue (more on that below) you can rest assured that a packaging regulated as hazardous by both the USDOT/PHMSA and OSHA can display both the new pictograms and the HazMat labels and markings.  To clarify this confusing situation I will present the issue from the distinct perspective of each regulatory agency.

Learn more about the GHS, OSHA’s HazCom, and its relation to the HMR…Contact Information for Daniels Training ServicesIn its Hazardous Material Regulations the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the US Department of Transportation regulates the domestic transportation of hazardous materials by all modes (air, land, vessel, and rail).  It’s authority extends beyond the actual transportation of the HazMat from point A to point B to include…

  • …the preparation of a hazardous material for transportation, including pre-transportation functions.
  • …the loading of a hazardous material on a transportation vehicle.
  • …the storage in transportation of a hazardous material, e.g. a 10-day transfer facility.
  • …the unloading of a hazardous material at its destination.

While subject to the HMR a HazMat packaging must display or use the applicable hazard communication methods unless excepted by regulation; they include:

  • Shipping papers
  • Placards
  • Markings
  • HazMat labels

USDOT/PHMSA specifically allows for the use of the OSHA pictograms in addition to its own HazMat labels at 49 CFR 172.401(c)(5) which states that the HMR’s prohibition against the use of non-regulatory labels does not apply to those of the “Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).”  In other words, per the USDOT/PHMSA the use of its HazMat labels in addition to the OSHA pictograms is perfectly acceptable.

But what about OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the Department of Labor regulates worker safety, including their exposure to hazardous chemicals.  It is not a stretch to see that OSHA’s authority and that of the USDOT/PHMSA may be separate at some times and overlap at others.  Confusion reigns because OSHA regulations at 29 CFR 1910.1200, appendix 2.3.3. forbids the use of the USDOT/PHMSA HazMat labels in addition to its pictograms:

c.2.3.3  Where a pictogram required by the Department of Transportation under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations appears on a shipped container, the pictogram specified in c.4 for the same hazard shall not appear.

Seems pretty clear-cut:  OSHA won’t allow the simultaneous use of its pictogram and the USDOT/PHMSA HazMat label, but not so fast…

…in an OSHA Brief issued in March of 2013 OSHA reversed this decision and allowed for the simultaneous use of the new OSHA pictograms and the USDOT/PHMSA HazMat labels:

 It is important to note that the OSHA pictograms do not replace the diamond-shaped labels that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires for the transport of chemicals, including chemical drums, chemical totes, tanks or other containers.  Those labels must be on the external part of a shipped container and must meet the DOT requirements set forth in 49 CFR 172, Subpart E.  If a label has a DOT transport pictogram, Appendix C.2.3.3 states that the corresponding HCS pictogram shall not appear.  However, DOT does not view the HCS pictogram as a conflict and for some international trade both pictograms may need to be present on the label.  Therefore, OSHA intends to revise C.2.3.3. In the meantime, the agency will allow both DOT and HCS pictograms for the same hazard on a label.  While the DOT diamond label is required for all hazardous chemicals on the outside shipping containers, chemicals in smaller containers inside the larger shipped container do not require the DOT diamond but do require the OSHA pictograms.

So there you have it.  Despite how the OSHA regulations currently read, the agency will allow the use of both its hazard communication methods and those of the USDOT/PHMSA until such time as it is able to revise C.2.3.3.

If you ship or receive hazardous materials then certain of your employees must receive initial and triennial (every three years) HazMat Employee training.  Contact me to provide this training and answer your questions about the OSHA pictograms and their relation to the transportation of hazardous materials.