HMIS and NFPA Labeling Systems
Two important chemical hazard labeling systems used in healthcare
facilities are the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS®) and
the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NFPA 704 system. At first glance,
the HMIS® and NFPA labeling systems appear quite similar; both have four
sections colored blue, red, yellow and white. Despite their similarities, the
two systems are not identical and each system serves a specific purpose:
- HMIS® is a complete system designed to aid employers
and their employees in day-to-day compliance with OSHA's Hazard Communication
Standard. It includes hazard evaluations; a rating system for acute and chronic
health, flammability and physical hazards; labels providing at-a-glance information
on the hazards and PPE; employee training; and a written compliance program.
HMIS was developed by the National Paint
and Coatings Association (NPCA).
- NFPA is a fire protection hazard warning system designed
to provide rapid, clear information to emergency responders on materials
under conditions of fire, chemical spill, or other emergency situations.
This labeling system was developed by National
Fire Protection Association. Like HMIS, it includes labels and a numerical
rating system, but the basic purpose of the label information is different.
It should be noted that OSHA safety
regulations do not require use of either the HMIS® or NFPA 704 systems;
OSHA permits one to use any labeling system as long as it satisfies their requirements
for “labels and other forms of warning” (29
Hazardous Materials Identification System HMIS®
developed by the National Paint & Coatings Association
(NPCA) to help employers comply with OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard
(HCS), 29 CFR 1910.1200. The
system utilizes colored bars, numbers and symbols to convey the hazards of chemicals used in the workplace.
The HMIS® labeling system satisfies a portion of
the HCS requirements by allowing workers to identify, at a glance, the type
and degree of hazards associated with each product they use.OSHA
stated in the preamble to the 1983 HCS, that "Labels prepared in accordance
with the NPCA Hazardous Materials Identification System would generally be
in compliance with this standard." In the preamble to the 1994 revised
HCS, OSHA indicated that this type of system continues to be an acceptable
means of complying with the standard.
HMIS® labels can appear in a variety of formats. Some
will include additional spaces to list target organ effects (a
labeling requirement under 29 CFR 1910.1200) and other information, but the
four colored areas shown here will always be present.
For additional information on HMIS®, see More
NFPA 704 hazard identification ratings system
Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an international nonprofit organization
dedicated to reducing the burden of fire and other hazards on the quality
of life by providing codes
and standards, research, training,
NFPA membership totals more than 79,000 individuals from around the world
and more than 80 national trade and professional organizations.
The familiar NFPA "hazard diamond" indicates health,
flammability, and instability. The diamond is broken into four sections. Numbers
in the three colored sections range from 0 (least severe hazard) to 4 (most
severe hazard). The fourth (white) section is left blank and is used only to
denote special fire fighting measures/hazards.
For additional information on NFPA, see More Resources below.
HMIS® vs. NFPA -- determining which labels to
HMIS® is intended to be used by employers and workers
on a daily basis and provides information on acute and chronic health hazards,
flammability, physical hazard, and personal protective equipment. The system
helps employers comply with OSHA's Hazard communication standard. The emphasis
of HMIS® on personal protective equipment and hazard communication
make it the better choice for keeping employees informed about every day workplace
hazards and how they can minimize exposure.
NFPA's label information is intended for use by emergency
response personnel (fire fighters, hazardous materials workers, police, etc.)
under emergency conditions. Labels contain information on acute health hazards,
flammability, physical hazard and special characteristics that might require
special fire fighting techniques, such as reactivity with water. Facilities
that store or use materials that require special handling under emergency situations
may find the NFPA's system most useful. The additional information on special
characteristics is particularly useful during a spill or fire.
HMIS® - Hazardous Materials
Identification System. A discussion presented by the Safety Emporium,
a supplier of laboratory and safety supplies.
NFPA 704. A discussion presented
by the Safety Emporium, a supplier of laboratory and safety supplies.
NFPA's Fire Protection Guide to Hazardous Materials, 13th edition includes
NFPA 704, "Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials
for Emergency Response" as well as pertinent information from a variety
of other NFPA publications (including NFPA 704 ratings for over 3,000 specific
chemicals, information not included with NFPA 704).
HMIS® - Hazardous Materials Identification System New aerosol flammability
rating criteria. The Third version of this
system, HMIS® III, offers comprehensive resources covering hazard assessment,
hazard communication, and employee training. HMIS® III Hazard Assessment
helps define the Health, Flammability and Physical Hazards of different
chemicals, and shows how to communicate those hazards with a label that
incorporates color-coded fields, along with a recommendation for personal