A Guide to Hazchem Symbols

Hazchem symbols give an indication of the hazard you may find in cleaning products, you use on a day to day basis. They can warn us about various hazards, such as flammable chemicals, chemicals which may explode if subjected to heat or chemicals which are harmful to the environment. When ever using chemicals, you must always wear the correct PPE. (Personal Protective Equipment)

In this guide, we will look at the symbols and what hazard they present.

Flammable

the Flammable Hazchem Symbol is used for products that may easily catch fire, when exposed to heat or a naked flame. Items that may be flammable include: Aerosol Canned Polish, etc. These chemicals need to be kept in a cool and dry environment, away from heat sources and naked flames. Petrol and Diesel are a an example of a chemical which catches fire very easily. It must be stored properly and away from naked flames or electrical equipment.

Corrosive

Some chemicals are corrosive to the skin and can cause chemical burns. A good example of this is the Acid Based Toilet Maintainer we use on our toilets and urinals. The chemical uses Hydrochloric Acid to burn away limescale. Hydrochloric Acid can burn the skin and cause lasting damage. It can also cause blindness, if you get it in your eyes. It’s strong stuff, so the correct PPE must be worn.

Toxic to the Environment

Chemicals that are toxic to the environment, can cause long term ecological damage, if it enters the ground or is allowed to enter a water passage, without being diluted first. Oils and Petrol are a couple of good examples of chemicals cannot be put down the drain, even if diluted. They require specialist disposal at a specialist facility. Asbestos is another substance that is toxic to the environment.

Respiratory Sensitizer

I mentioned Asbestos above and that it is dangerous to the environment. It is also a Respiratory Sensitizer and can cause long term damage to your lungs.You only need to inhale micro particles for it to cause problems. Thankfully, the effects are not immediate, but may appear in later years.

Explosive

I don’t think I need to go into detail on chemicals that are explosive, if exposed to fire (and or) high levels of heat. However, chemicals in aerosol cans are likely to explode if exposed to high heat or are punctured.

Oxidising

Oxidising products may cause or intensify fire. Oxidising materials can also cause explosions; therefore, they should be treated as flammable. Oxygen tanks and some cleaners, such as Ammonia and turpentine, will bear this symbol.

Flammable Gas

Flammable gasses, such as Butane, will easily catch fire and also may explode, if allowed to heat to a high temperature. Butane should be stored in it’s own cage, well away from the buildings if possible and smoking and naked flames must not be used in the area where the cylinders are stored.

Under Pressure (Compressed Gasses)

Containers bearing this symbol are pressurised, such as fire extinguishers and gas canisters. They contain gases that can explode if heated. It also applies to products containing refrigerated gases, which can cause serious cryogenic burns when exposed to skin.

Irritant

Chemicals that are irritant, may cause itching to skin, It may also irritate the eyes, should the chemical is allowed to get in your eyes.

Toxic

Chemicals that are toxic, may cause severe illness (or even death) if swallowed or allowed to get into your bloodstream. Chemicals that are toxic, may include Rat Poison, Bleach, Caustic Soda, Acids, etc. These chemicals can cause a severe risk to your life or may cause severe and irreversible damage to your body.

So next time you are about to do a cleaning task, look at the bottle of the chemical you are using and check for the above Hazchem Symbols. You should also make sure you read the COSHH Data Sheets, to check if there are any special precautions you need to take, when using chemicals. Ultimately, you need to make sure that you wear the correct PPE at all times, when using chemicals and you must ALWAYS follow the instructions on the bottle \ COSHH Data Sheets.