Why do we need OSHA pictograms?

In this blog post I will explain each of the 8 new HazCom pictograms, their meanings and why they are now required.

In June of last year, the OSHA HCS started to require pictograms on chemical hazard labels. These pictograms are meant to easily alert users to the potential dangers they may be exposed to while handling the chemicals.

Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border. These color specifications are the only color specific requirements for the new labeling system.

The pictograms on each individual label are determined by the chemical hazard classification named in the specific chemical’s SDS and each represents a distinct hazard. (1)

There are 8 mandatory pictograms and 1 non-mandatory.

Health HazardThe chemical is a physical or health hazard



-Reproductive Toxicity

-Respiratory Sensitizer

-Target Organ Toxicity

-Aspiration Toxicity

FlameThe chemical may burst into flames




-Emits Flammable Gas


-Organic Peroxides

Exclamation MarkThe chemical may cause immediate, serious health effects

-Irritant (skin and eye)

-Skin Sensitizer

-Acute Toxicity (harmful)

-Narcotic Effects

-Respiratory Tract Irritant


Gas CylinderThe chemical contains pressurized gas that can explode or damage health if ruptured, heated or is leaking

-Gases Under Pressure


CorrosionChemical may cause physical or health hazard that can easily damage eyes and skin

Skin Corrosion/Burns

-Eye Damage

– Corrosive to Metals

Exploding BombThe chemical can create uncontrolled reactions, like blowing up



-Organic Peroxides

Flame Over CircleThe chemical may cause other materials to ignite or burn quickly



Skull and CrossbonesThe chemical is a serious physical or health hazard or a poison

-Acute Toxicity (fatal or toxic)

BONUS pictogram!

Environment (non-mandatory)-the chemical can be hazardous to fish and other wildlife that live in the water

This pictogram is not mandatory because environmental pictograms fall under EPA regulations.

-Aquatic Toxicity


The use of pictograms is the most significant change for labeling in the US workplace. GHS pictograms are not the same as DOT placards and are not interchangeable. They can coincide, but may not contradict each other.

In conclusion, pictograms are meant to be useful illustrations that visually show what is being described verbally.



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