Danger Vs. Warning

Understanding the difference between Danger and Warning can help you easily identify the hazards you may encounter while working with various chemicals.

The new GHS labeling system going into effect June 1st has specific guidelines that employers need to adhere to in regards to the labeling of hazardous chemicals.

One of these new guidelines is the use of a “signal word” to immediately alert the user of potential risks associated with the chemical. This signal word can only be 1 of 2 approved words set by the GHS:

Warning and Danger.

Although these words may seem interchangeable, if you read the appendices OSHA published in depth, the differences between the two become apparent.

WARNING  identifies chemicals and products that present a lesser, but still potentially harmful, degree of hazard.

DANGER identifies chemicals and products that present a great, often immediate hazard, to the person handling the chemical.

Appendix C of the revised HazCom standard goes into more specifics. (1)

For example, you will see that the signal word depends on the hazard category that the particular chemical belongs too. Materials/Chemicals that fall into categories 1, 2 and 3 (C.4.1)  are known to cause Oral Acute Toxicity meaning they are toxic or lethal if ingested, this characterization means that the chemical requires the use of the more hazardous signal word, DANGER. Category 4 materials are “harmful” thus needing the lesser hazardous signal word, WARNING.

Another example is from section 4.4 of appendix C, this category emphasizes the differences between corrosive and irritant. If the product is only an irritant to skin and eyes then it is considered “harmful” and the signal word used would be WARNING, but if the product is considered corrosive (can cause permanent damage) to the eyes/skin then the product would be marked with DANGER.

There is also a category for flammable and combustible liquids. All flammable liquids are marked with DANGER while combustible liquids are marked with WARNING.  Combustible liquids have a higher flash-point and are less likely to ignite at room temperature, thus marked with the lesser of the two signal words.  

Other specific criteria for labeling based on the physical and health hazards of the chemical can be found in Appendix A and B of the new Hazard Communication standard.

By using only two “signal words” the risk of confusion is lessened and the differences in potentially harmful chemicals are more distinguishable.

If you would like more information regarding signal words and the new regulations, please check out the OSHA website: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/ghs-final-rule.html



(1) https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/hazcom-appendix-c.html


Labeling Hazardous Waste

All hazardous waste needs to be properly labeled.

There are certain requirements set by both the DOT and the EPA for the marking of hazardous waste containers before and during shipment.

Generators of hazardous waste may keep hazardous waste on site as long as they follow the rules in 40 CFR part 262, subpart C (1). Depending on each individual’s generator status, hazardous waste may need to be marked with “Hazardous Waste” along with other signifying information such as the accumulation start date.

EPA regulation regarding the labeling of  non-bulk packaging of hazardous material must include the following verbiage:

HAZARDOUS WASTE-Federal Law Prohibits Improper Disposal. If found, contact the nearest police or public safety authority or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Generator’s Name and Address _____________.
Generator’s EPA Identification Number __________________.
Manifest Tracking Number ___________________.

The DOT standard for hazardous waste begins before shipment of waste to an offsite location, regardless of whether the shipment is for treatment, disposal or storage.

For shipments of hazardous material, including hazardous wastes, the DOT requires each non-bulk package (maximum capacity no more than 119 gallons) to display, at a minimum:

  • The Proper Shipping Name and identification number of the hazardous material [49 CFR 172.301(a)];
  • The name and address of the shipper and/or the designated recipient [49 CFR 173.301(d)];
  • The diamond hazard labels for the primary (and most subsidiary) hazard classes of the hazardous material [49 CFR 173.400, 173.402]. (2)

The DOT has very detailed specifications for hazard labels, but the Department does not specify formats for package markings, saying only that all package markings must be durable, visible, in English, and not obscured or confused by other markings.

A generator of hazardous waste can use a commercially available pre-printed label, such as our own  labels, or they may use any other means as long as the markings on the label conform to both the EPA and DOT requirements.

HCL provides customized HazWaste labels specific to federal and state regulations, as well.

These customized labels can include your company’s name, address, EPA ID No., contents composition, or any other information that is deemed appropriate for your HazWaste label needs.

If you have any questions in regards to any of our HazWaste products, including the customize option, please feel free to email us at hclco@hclco.com.


This is a CA state and Federal Hazardous Waste compliant label.








Please note that the information in this post is meant for general information purposes and is based on the current information available. For more in depth questions, please refer to the DOT and EPA websites.