Chemical Container Labeling

Secondary Chemical Containers (e.g., squirt bottle, non-original screw-top bottle, vials, flasks, etc.) must have a means of communicating (1) their contents and (2) the hazards of those contents, either on the container or in the area where the container is stored/used.  There are two basic ways you can label your secondary chemical containers:

Method 1: Use Chemical Name and GHS Hazards

(these containers will usually be ≥ 50ml in size)

  • Write out the entire name of the chemical.
  • Indicate the GHS Hazard Class(es).
    • Use self-stick GHS Pictogram(s) to identify the chemical hazards, or write the GHS Hazard Class (e.g., “Corrosive”) on the container. 
    • Use the SDS or PubChem to determine the proper GHS Hazard Class/pictograms.
    • Pictogram stickers are available in RNS 253, 295, 341, 396, or 441.
Method 2: Use Acronyms/Symbols and a Chemical Abbreviation Key

(these containers will usually be ≤ 50ml in size, such as vials, test tubes, etc.)

  • Use Acronyms (e.g., EtOH for Ethanol), chemical formulas (e.g., C2H6O for Ethanol), or some other reasonable symbol to label your container,


  • Post a highly visible Chemical Abbreviation Key that lists (1) the chemical name of the associated acronym, formula, or symbol, and (2) the GHS Hazard Class (use the pictogram or write out the name).
    • You can download this GHS Chemical Abbreviation Key and modify it for your laboratory.
    • Note: this Key must be posted in every lab room in which you and your students will be working (if a door divides a space, then the Key must be posted in both spaces).
    • Ensure that all lab users understand the Chemical Abbreviation Key.
    • Use the SDS or PubChem to determine the proper GHS Hazard Class/pictogram.


  • *** Please NOTE: You have flexibility with Method 2, especially with small containers that are stored in racks/boxes/bins,  For example:
    • On the front of the storage rack, you could indicate the Hazard Class and chemical name of the vials that are stored within the rack.  You must, however, ensure that the acronym/symbol that you have placed on the (for example) vial can somehow be linked to the storage rack.

Containers that Do Not Need Labels
  • Immediate-Use Containers that are under the direct control of one individual do not need a label if:

    • You are the only person using it, AND
    • You do not leave the container unattended, AND
    • The container is emptied at the end of your work shift or research procedure (whichever time frame is shortest).
      • If you leave for lunch or to attend/teach class, then the container must be labeled.
  • Reaction Vessels or other Similar Containers:
    • These must have a label/sign posted nearby that allows an observer to understand the container’s contents and hazards.

Original (Manufacturer's/Supplier's) Containers

Do not remove or deface the original manufacturer’s labels while the original substance is still inside.  If the label becomes damaged then contact the Stockroom Manager for help in obtaining a replacement label.

By June 1, 2016, all containers that are received from chemical manufacturers/suppliers will have the following six required label elements attached to the container:

  • Product Identifier: This can be (but is not limited to) the chemical name, code number or batch number
  • Supplier Info (Name, Address, and Telephone Number)
  • Signal Word:  Used to indicate the relative level of severity of the hazard and alert the reader to a potential hazard on the label. There are only two words used as Signal Words, “Danger” and “Warning.”  Within a specific Hazard Class, “Danger” is used for the more severe hazards and “Warning” is used for the less severe hazards.
  • Pictogram(s)
  • Hazard Statement(s)
  • Precautionary Statement(s):  Precautionary Statements describe recommended measures (including PPE) that should be taken to minimize or prevent adverse effects resulting from exposure to the hazardous chemical or improper storage or handling. 
    • There are four types of Precautionary Statements:
      • Prevention (guideline to minimize exposure; e.g., “Wear eye/face protection”)
      • Response (instructions in case of accidental spillage or exposure; emergency response; and first-aid)
      • Storage
      • Disposal