How to Read HMIS Labels

The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) has been designed by experts who want workers to handle dangerous materials carefully. Earlier, many workers put their lives in danger as they were not aware of the risk. This system was introduced to give them a quick idea about the items they carry.

Remember, even a simple mistake or negligence can cause illness, injury or death so you must adhere to the labels. HMI system mentions the severity of hazardous material with the help of coloured bars and anybody can understand the message if he/she knows which colour represents what.


  • 1

    First of all, you need to know what you are carrying in the box.  Sometimes, things are mentioned in the form of chemical formulas or codes so you must know how to interpret these. Some organisations also give pictorial reference which is really easy to understand. However, HMIS label tells the names of hazardous material in the white field. This white bar is usually at the top of the label so that the personnel notice this immediately.

  • 2

    After knowing the hazardous elements, you should read the blue bar which shows the type of health risks in case of any unfortunate incident. The severity of these risks is described through the numbers between 0 and 4.  In this chart, zero means no danger or insignificant affects in case of accidental exposure.

  • 3

    The third bar is coloured red and this shows the material’s tendency to catch fire. Again, there are numbers from 0 to 4 to show the level of danger. If you are reading “4” in the red bar then it means the material inside is highly flammable. However, if the box is having mixed materials then results can be different despite of having a zero reading in the bar.

  • 4

    Orange bar on the HMIS label represents the physical hazards linked with the material. The experts have divided the intensity in four classes. If the reading is 0 then the material is stable under normal conditions but if you are seeing 4 in the bar then it means the material is highly reactive.

  • 5

    Last but not the least, you will read the white bar which gives you an idea about precautionary measures and safety equipments. Instead of using digits, this time you will see different letters in the bar.

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