GHS Pictogram Training Cheat Sheet

The Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requirs pictograms on labels to alert users of the chemical hazards to which they may be exposed. Each pictogram consists of a symbol on a white background framed within a red border and represents a distinct hazard(s). The pictogram on the label is determined by the chemical hazard classification.

Here’s a handy training cheat sheet to use at your facility.

Health Hazard

This pictogram is put on a chemical label when a substance presents these health hazards:

  • Carcinogen–may cause cancer
  • Respiratory sensitizer–may cause respiratory irritation
  • Reproductive toxicity–may damage fertility or the unborn child
  • Target organ toxicity–may cause damage to bodily organs
  • Mutagenicity–may cause genetic defects
  • Aspiration toxicity–may be fatal if swallowed and it enters the airways


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It appears on chemical labels for substances that are:

  • Flammables–which are gases, aerosols, liquids, or solids that will burn or ignite under certain conditions,
  • Self-Reactives–heating alone, without air, may cause fire or explosion,
  • Pyrophorics–in small amounts, may ignite within 5 minutes after contact with air,
  • Self-Heating–which may catch fire only in large amounts and after long periods of time when exposed to air,
  • Emitters of flammable gas, and
  • Organic peroxides–which, when heated, may cause fire or explosion; may be sensitive to impact or friction; and may react dangerously with other chemicals.

Exclamation Mark

It is used on a chemical label for substances that represent the following hazards:

  • Irritant–irritates the skin or eyes;
  • Skin sensitizer–which is an allergic response following skin contact;
  • Acute toxicity–which may be fatal or cause organ damage from a single short-term exposure;
  • Narcotic effects like drowsiness, lack of coordination, and dizziness; and
  • Respiratory tract irritation.

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Gas Cylinder

This pictogram on a chemical label means that the substance is a compressed, liquefied, or dissolved gas under pressure at 29 pounds per square inch or more.

Flame over Circle

This symbol on a chemical label means that the substance is an oxidizer. Oxidizers may cause a fire by increasing the concentration of oxygen in the air.


This pictogram on a chemical label means that the substance causes skin burns, eye damage, or destroys metals.

Skull and Crossbones

Substances with a hazard of acute toxicity will have this symbol on their chemical label. Acute toxicity means that exposure to a single dose of the chemical may be toxic or fatal if inhaled or swallowed, or if it comes into contact with the skin.

Exploding Bomb

The exploding bomb pictogram appears on the chemical labels of substances that are:

  • Explosives—which is a solid or liquid chemical capable of a chemical reaction that causes damage to the surroundings,
  • Self-Reactive—heating may cause fire or explosion without the need for air, or
  • Organic peroxides—again, heating may cause fire or explosion.

Bonus Pictogram! Environment

This non-mandatory pictogram means the hazard the chemical presents is aquatic toxicity.

BLR’s environmental and safety legal experts have been bombarded lately with questions from subscribers on the specifics of the GHS standard. If you’re looking for more information too, see these related posts from Environmental Daily Advisor and Safety Daily Advisor.

  1. GHS—Understanding the New Hazard Communication Standard
  2. Oh Sheet! What You May Not Know About SDSs
  3. HazCom Training Requirements Now That GHS Is Here