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Understanding Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) Requirements For Labeling

September 4, 2018

Understanding proper handling needs for potentially dangerous chemicals is essential for public safety. While OSHA's Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals outlines standards for ensuring the well-being for over 43 million workers who produce or handle these materials across the United States, these standards don't extend to the average American consumer.

That's where the Federal Hazardous Substance Act's labeling requirements come in.

If your organization produces and/or sells products that are hazardous, you must follow the regulations outlined by this act and your label printing company must understand these requirements.

Under what circumstances do products require FHSA labeling?

The Federal Hazardous Substance Act (FHSA) pertains to labeling common household products or products that could otherwise be brought in or around a residence due to purchase, storage, or use. In other words, even if a product is stored in a garage or shed, rather than in an actual home itself, it will still need to meet these labeling requirements if it falls under the category of hazardous products.

A product must bear warning labels if its contents are toxic, flammable or combustible, corrosive, an irritant, a sensitizer, or a substance that generates pressure in some way (heat, decomposition, etc.). The product must also have the potential to cause substantial illness or injury as a result of handling or use. In other words, the contents and the likelihood of exposure to hazards determines whether a product needs to follow FHSA labeling requirements.

What are the specific hazards outlined by FHSA?

FHSA outlines each hazard, its labeling requirements, and even tests that need to be performed to assess a product's hazards. Here are some brief definitions of each hazard that may help you evaluate whether your product requires these warning labels.

  • TOXIC: If a product can cause injury or illness when inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin, it is considered toxic. This also applies to products that could cause long-term chronic conditions such as birth defects, cancer, or neurotoxicity.
  • CORROSIVE: A product is considered corrosive if it is able to destroy living tissue (such as the skin or the eyes) by the natural process of chemical action.
  • IRRITANT: This pertains to products that do not fall under the corrosive category but do cause substantial injuries when they come into contact with a part of the body. This irritation could occur immediately, after prolonged contact, or subsequent to repeated contact.
  • SENSITIZER: These products are deemed to have high potential for causing hypersensitivity in an individual. While sensitizers don't cause an immediate reaction after the first exposure, the reaction becomes evident after a second exposure.
  • FLAMMABLE: FHSA outlines different regulations for products based on their level of flammability. A product is considered "extremely flammable" if it has a flash point below 20 degrees Fahrenheit when tested. A "flammable" designation will be given if the product has a flash point above 20 degrees Fahrenheit and below 100 degrees Fahrenheit when tested. And a product is deemed "combustible" if its flash point is at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit upon testing.
  • PRESSURE GENERATOR: This applies to products that generate pressure through heat, decomposition, or other methods. This designation applies to aerosol containers, certain pool chemicals, or fireworks that contain explosive powders, among other products.

What information must be included in warning labels for hazardous products?

If you produce and sell hazardous products, you must prioritize having high quality commercial labels that communicate specific information outlined by FHSA. Your warning labels must include the following, written legibly and in English:

  • Name and business address of the seller, distributor, packer, and/or manufacturer
  • Chemical, usual, or common name for each hazardous ingredient
  • "Danger" for corrosive, extremely flammable, or highly toxic products
  • "Caution" or "Warning" for all other hazardous products
  • "Poison" for highly toxic products
  • "Keep out of the reach of children" for all hazardous products
  • Affirmative statements of hazards presented by product (e.g., "harmful if swallowed," "causes burns," "flammable," etc.)
  • Special instructions for handling or storage
  • Precautionary statements outlining actions that must be taken to ensure consumer protection
  • Instructions for first aid treatment if the product causes illness or injury

In order to protect consumers and your business, it's vital to work with labeling companies that understand the importance of adhering to the regulations for hazardous product warning labels. For more information on our labeling solutions, contact us today.

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