GHS Standards & Hazard Communication Standard Pictograms

In 2003, the United Nations (UN) adopted the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The GHS includes criteria for the classification of health, physical, and environmental hazards and specifies what information should be included on labels of hazardous chemicals as well as safety data sheets. 

As of June 1, 2015, the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) will require pictograms on labels to alert users of the chemical hazards to which they may be exposed. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents at least one distinct hazard. The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification.

HCS Pictograms and Hazards 

Health Hazard


  • Carcinogen
  • Mutagenicity
  • Reproductive Toxicity
  • Respiratory Sensitizer
  • Target Organ Toxicity
  • Aspiration Toxicity



  • Flammables
  • Pyrophorics
  • Self-Heating
  • Emits Flammable Gas
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

  Exclamation Point


  • Irritant (skin and eye)
  • Skin Sensitizer
  • Acute Toxicity (harmful)
  • Narcotic Effects
  • Respiratory Tract Irritant
  • Hazardous to Ozone Layer

Gas Cylinder


  • Gases Under Pressure




  • Skin Corrosion/Burns
  • Eye Damage
  • Corrosive to Metals

Exploding Bomb


  • Explosives
  • Self-Reactives
  • Organic Peroxides

Flame Over Circle


  • Oxidizers                            



  • Aquatic Toxicity

Skull & Crossbones


  • Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)


HMIS Labeling

The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) is a visual safety system that uses colors and numbers to relay risk information for chemicals. Created by the National Paint and Coating Association (NPCA), it was designed to be as compatible as possible with hazard communication systems such as ANSI, NIOSH, and others used by industry. The information is communicated through a numerical rating for Health, Flammability, and Reactivity (now Physical) Hazard. The numerical ratings range from 0 to 4: a rating of "0" represents little or no hazard potential, while a "4" rating indicates an extremely high degree of hazard potential. If you would like more information regarding the HMIS, please contact the NPCA.

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