The importance of chemical labelling has been highlighted when a worker ended up in intensive care after drinking a hazardous chemical that had been decanted into a drink bottle.
The chemical was the hardener in a two-part cement system used for levelling floors. At the time of the incident, the importer had not classified it as a hazardous chemical and so it was not labelled in accordance with the Globally harmonised system of classification and labelling of chemicals (GHS). However, the worker's injuries triggered a review, and the hardener was re-classified as a hazardous chemical.
The safety data sheet and GHS labelling requirements for hazardous chemicals then applied and the importer/supplier recalled the product from retailers then provided updated labelling. The workplace at which hardener had been decanted into the drink bottle also made extensive improvements to its decanting and labelling procedures.
Decanting a hazardous chemical into a drink bottle, or any other container, that could be mistaken as containing food or drink (i.e. not correctly labelled as a hazardous chemical), is strictly prohibited. Workplaces that decant hazardous chemicals from a supplier's container into another must ensure the new container is correctly labelled.
Under controlled conditions where workers are trained and aware of the hazards (i.e. information in a hazardous chemical's SDS), are bound by safe work procedures, and not supplying the chemical to another workplace, it is permitted to use a reduced GHS label that contains at least:
- the name that identifies the hazardous chemical (i.e. a product identifier)
- the GHS pictogram or hazard statement for the applicable GHS hazard categories consistent with the statement in section 2 of the chemical's SDS.
For guidance, manufacturers and importers of chemicals should refer to the Preparation of safety data sheets for hazardous chemicals code of practice 2011 (PDF, 1.76 MB).
Chemical suppliers and workplaces that decant hazardous chemicals into other containers for their own use should refer to the Labelling of workplace hazardous chemicals code of practice (PDF, 1.34 MB).