All chemicals are labeled properly

P.I.s/supervisors must ensure that labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals for laboratory use are not removed or defaced. These original labels contain information on the identity of the chemical(s) in the container and the hazard identification of the chemical(s). It is recommended that incoming containers be labeled with the P.I.'s name and date of receipt.

Labels on containers used for storing hazardous chemicals must include the chemical identification and appropriate hazard warnings.

If chemicals from commercial sources are repackaged into transfer vessels, the new containers must be labeled with all essential information on the original container.

Identifying the specific hazard associated with a chemical greatly reduces chances of misuse by regular laboratory employees, new users, or visitors to the laboratory. The label and SDS will indicate, for example, if a chemical is shock sensitive or explosive.

Groups of vials, small bottles or samples can be labeled as a group with a common ticket for all items. If the lab members wish to use abbreviations instead of full chemical name, provide an abbreviation chart in plain view in the lab.


  • NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant or Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules. April 2019.
  • MSU Chemical Hygiene Plan (B) and (A) OSHA Standard 1910.1450 App A.

Corrective actions:

Label all reagents, solutions, stocks, etc. with the appropriate name of the contents and hazard. If abbreviations are used instead of full chemical names, make sure to provide an abbreviation chart in plain view in the lab.

MSU has developed a comprehensive guide for labeling of chemicals (PDF) in the laboratory that can be found on the EHS website. 

In addition labels can be requested from EHS on the EHS Safety Portal (Lab Label Request).

Familiarize yourself with these recommendations and make sure they are followed in the laboratory.

Container Labels. All containers of hazardous chemicals must be labeled with the name of the chemical and the hazard(s), if not provided by the manufacturer. If a chemical has more than one hazard, it must be labeled with both hazards. For example, acetaldehyde is both a flammable and a carcinogen, and must be labeled appropriately. Additionally, the subsequent guidelines shall be followed:

1. Labeling Basics

For containers labeled by the manufacturer:
  • Inspect the labeling on incoming
  • Replace damaged or semi-attached
For transferred products or prepared solutions labeled by the user:
  • Label each chemical container with the chemical name and hazard
  • Refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for hazard warning

2. Alternate Method for Labeling Multiple Small Containers

Legend Method:
  • Label containers with abbreviated chemical name and a hazard
  • Provide a key in a visible location in the lab with complete chemical
  • Document that employees are trained on the labeling

Box or Tray Method:

  • Put containers in box or
  • Label tray with chemical name and hazard warning
  • If containers are removed from the box/tray they must be properly labeled or returned to the box or tray within the work-shift.
  • Document that employees are trained on the labeling system

3. Labeling Peroxide Forming Chemicals

Peroxidizable chemicals are listed in APPENDIX G of the MSU Chemical Hygiene Plan

and must be labeled with:

  • Date Received
  • Date Opened
  • Date Tested
  • Test Results

4. Consumer Products. Anything available over the counter to the general public is exempt from labeling requirements if it has already been labeled by the manufacturer. This includes consumer products such as cans of spray paint or turpentine.

5. Stationary Containers. Stationary process containers such as tanks may be identified with signs, placards, process sheets, batch tickets or other written materials instead of actually affixing labels to process containers. The sign or placard must convey the same information that a label would and be visible to employees throughout the work shift.

6. Portable Containers. Portable containers into which hazardous chemicals are transferred from labeled containers and which are intended to be under the use and control of the person who transferred it, within the work shift in which it was transferred, are exempt from labeling.

However, it is recommended that a temporary label identifying the chemical and its primary hazard be affixed to the container.

7. Refrigerators and Freezers: All refrigerator and freezer units used in laboratories must be marked as “SAFE FOR FLAMMABLE STORAGE” or “UNSAFE FOR FLAMMABLE STORAGE” on the exterior surface of the unit as appropriate. All cold rooms must be marked “UNSAFE FOR FLAMMABLE STORAGE”.