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Weekly Toolbox Talk: Labels

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You have often heard the story of the child who thinks he is drinking from a container filled with water or soda only to discover, after taking a few sips, that he is actually drinking potentially harmful liquid such as gasoline or cleaning fluid.

While labeling of containers may seem to be a basic common-sense issue, it is often overlooked. Many harmful substances are poured into temporary containers and then forgotten while other tasks are attend to. A potential harmful situation occurs when someone assumes that the liquid in a bottle or container is a particular substance and does not know that it is actually a chemical whose use is completely wrong for the intended purpose.

As a result:

  • Never accept a container that contains a hazardous substance unless that container has been correctly labeled and the label is legible. Labeling directly onto the container with a marking pen or other similar device is acceptable as long as the label cannot be removed or washed off, and the writing is legible.
  • Make sure all hazardous material containers that come on to the job site are correctly labeled when you receive them. Make sure the label states the chemical name of the contents, the appropriate hazard warnings and the name and address of manufacturer.
  • Always label or mark any secondary containers that you use on a job site. A secondary container is one that contains a substance that has been transferred from its original holder. It is not a good idea to use cups, bottles and other containers originally designed for other uses as secondary containers. Approved devices suitable for the substances carried should always be properly labeled and used.
  • Never remove a label from a container in an attempt to re-use the container to carry a different substance. A trace of the container’s original contents may remain. You could unknowingly mix two substances that should not come into contact with each other.
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