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July 08, 2011
Hazardous Materials: NFPA Labeling System

There are some hazardous materials that use the National Fire Protection Association labeling system. The NFPA labeling system is quite different than the DOT system, and workers should be trained to read these labels as they contain important safety information.

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In general, the NFPA system uses the following colors:

  • Blue = Health
  • Red = Flammability
  • Yellow = Instability
  • White = Other hazards/handling
  • Scale: 0 (no hazard) to 4 (extreme hazard)

The National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, has developed a labeling system that uses colors and numbers to warn about material hazards. The labels are typically in the shape of a larger diamond enclosing four different colored diamonds. Smaller labels may have colored stripes instead of diamonds. The colors tell you the type of hazard.

  • Blue represents health hazards;
  • Red represents flammability hazards;
  • Yellow represents instability or reactivity hazards;
  • White represents other hazards or special handling recommendations

Inside the diamonds or stripes are numbers ranging from 0 to 4, where 0 means no hazard and 4 means extreme hazard. So, if you see a label that has a 0 or 1 in the blue section, the material is a minor health hazard. A 3 or 4 in the red section means the material has a severe or extreme flammability hazard.

Supervisors should ensure that all at-risk employees are trained to read and understand the NFPA system before they are allowed to handle the material. Supervisors should also instruct workers on the proper PPE to be worn for the specific type of hazardous material the worker will be handling or be exposed to in the workplace.

Workers must also take responsibility for their own safety and learn the various meanings of the warning labels of the materials they work with and may become exposed to should an accident occur.

For more information on all the training courses BLR has to offer, go to our Safety Training Materials & Resources page.

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