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HazCom: Understanding Container Labels

You can help prevent illness and injury by reading the container label for each hazardous substance you use. There should always be a label on a container. If you have any questions after reading the container label, check the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). The MSDS is probably the most detailed source of information for the hazardous substance you are using.

Man reading label on large container.

Container labels

Always check the container label before handling any substance. All container labels list basic warnings. Others may give more detailed precautions. Container labels may have information such as the following:

  • A brief description of the substance

  • The main ingredients of the substance

  • The kind of personal protective equipment you should wear while handling the substance

  • A list of hazard warnings, such as the need to keep the substance away from flames, the need to avoid skin contact, or the need to use in a well-ventilated area

  • Directions on how to use the substance safely

  • Steps to take if you splash the substance in your eyes or on your skin

  • The procedure for storing the substance safely

  • The manufacturer’s name and address

  • The procedure for disposing of the container


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