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Changes Hazardous Substances

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New Hazardous Symbols

Traditional COSHH Symbols : Many of us will be familiar with the age old orange and black hazardous substance symbols - they have been around for years and are instantly recognisable to all. They are found on everything from basic cleaning products to acids and has been with us since 1967 when the Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548/EEC) was passed.


New and Old COSHH Symbols


International symbols will replace the European symbols in 2009. Some of them are similar to the European symbols but there is no single word describing the hazard.  The most noticeable feature is the change in the labelling symbols: instead of the hazard symbols with black printing on orange-yellow rectangles that have been used to date, now nine hazard pictograms with black symbols on a white background with red-rimmed rhombuses are used to provide warnings


The new international hazard symbols and warning and precautionary phrases that must be used on labels which will eventually replace the danger signs, risk and safety phrases. There will be a transitional period as these are gradually phased in. The changes have to be completed by Dec 2010 for substances and by December 2015 for preparations.


The long transition period for the labelling systems (2009 - 2015) is intended to ensure that all of the relevant parties - public authorities, companies and stakeholders - are able to concentrate their resources on the new obligations in a timely manner.


New Hazardous Substances (COSHH) symbols


In order from top left to bottom right the symbols are:


Dangerous to the environment;


Gas under pressure;




Caution - used for less serious health hazards like skin irritation;

Oxidising; and

Longer term health hazards such as carcinogenicity and respiratory sensitisation.


Useful HSE Links


Chemical Classification (replaces INDG 350 CHIP 4 and INDG 352 Read the Label)


INDG 136 Working with substances hazardous to health (PDF document download)


Further on the control of substances can be found in ACOP L5 and HSG 97 A step by step guide to COSHH assessment



ACOP L5 Control of substances hazardous to health


HSG 97 A step by step guide to COSHH assessment

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