Pay attention to warnings placed on equipment in order to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Although many U.S. manufacturers use universal safety symbols, others develop their own unique labelling for their products, states the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Visit the EPA website for commonly used warning labels, and check manufacturers' instruction manuals for the meaning of symbols particular to their products.
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A graphic of fire or flames means equipment can possibly ignite under certain circumstances. Use with caution, and keep cigarettes, lighters and other heat substances that can ignite highly flammable gases or liquids away from the area.
A graphic label showing drips of liquid from a lab tube eroding the symbol of an object or hand indicates that contents are corrosive. Avoid direct contact. Skin irritation, breathing problems and other health concerns can result from exposure to substances of high acidity.
A graphic with flying particles and a series of diagonal lines emanating from a central point indicates a danger of explosion if not used properly or mixed with certain chemicals. Do not create a spark from friction or heat when around this equipment.
A universal system created by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) explains the extent of a chemical's various hazardous characteristics. The diamond-shaped graphic contains a red area indicating fire hazard, blue area indicating health hazard, yellow area indicating reactivity hazard, and white area with a symbol or letters indicating whether the substance is an oxidiser, acid, alkali, corrosive, radioactive or not to be mixed with water. The inner diamonds of red, blue and yellow contain numbers to reveal the severity of concern--from minimal (0) to severe (4).
Hazardous Material Information System
The hazardous material information system enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) features a blue bar designating the extent of health concerns, red bar indicating the danger of flammability, and yellow bar revealing reactivity danger. Numbers are contained within the coloured bars using the same system of severity as the NFPA labels (0 to 4). A bottom white bar lists what protective gear is needed.
A skull and crossbones graphic is the universal symbol to warn that contents are extremely toxic and hazardous to human health. Do not touch, swallow or inhale the substance or its vapours. Death can occur.
A universal symbol indicating radioactivity showcases a disclike graphic with a small black centre circle surrounded by three black triangular shapes. Radioactive equipment, such as X-ray machines, must not be approached or used without protective wear. Exposure to radioactive material can destroy unprotected healthy areas of the body.
Hewlett-Packard uses the graphic of a lightning bolt on its equipment to warn that an area should not be touched or entered into because of a high risk of electric shock. Only authorised professionals should enter areas marked with this symbol.
Personal protective equipment symbols are graphics of various types of protective gear that must be worn when handling a piece of equipment to maintain safety. Although the graphics may differ slightly in design, their meanings are distinguishable by the object pictured (gloves, goggles, helmet, welding mask, dust masks and more).
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