US Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS)

Little Pro on 2015-12-30

Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) is a voluntary hazard rating scheme developed by American Coatings Association (ACA) to help employers comply with workplace labeling requirements of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) revised Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). HMIS communicates in-plant chemical hazard information through the use of colors, numbers and letters of the alphabet (see example below).

HMIS Label

For detailed HMIS rating criteria in text, please click this Wikipedia summary.

Comparison of HMIS Labels and NFPA Labels

NFPA 704 is a standard system developed by the U.S.-based National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for indicating the health, flammability, reactivity and special hazards for many hazardous chemicals through the use of the NFPA 704 Diamond.

As two popular workplace labelling systems in pre-GHS area in the United States, HMIS and NFPA labeling systems do appear quite similar; both have four sections colored blue, red, yellow and white. However, there are many differences between HMIS and NFPA labels.

Target Audience
  • HMIS label is intended to be used by employers and workers;
  • NFPA label is intended to be used by emergency response personnel;
Label Shape
  • HMIS uses bar shape;
  • NFPA uses diamond shape;
Health Hazard Communication
  • HMIS covers both acute and chronic health hazards;
  • NFPA only covers acute health hazards;
White Section
  • HMIS uses this section to show the recommended personnel protective equipment (PPE);
  • NFPA uses this section to display other special hazards.

HMIS Labels vs OHSA HazCom Labels

Even though HMIS is not required by OSHA's HCS, it is not going to disappear very soon. However, it can be replaced by OHSA's new GHS label. OSHA's FAQ says that alternative labeling systems such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 704 Hazard Rating and the Hazardous Material Information System (HMIS) are permitted for workplace containers. However, the information supplied on these labels must be consistent with the revised HCS.

Related Regulations and Standards

Recommended Readings

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 Tags: Topics - USAGHS Basics and Tutorials