What is Hazmat

What is Hazmat?

Hazardous materials, or hazmat, are substances that pose considerable risk to health, property, or environment. They include toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear waste products, biological agents, and radioactive or radiological agents. If you work with or encounter hazmat, you need to know how to handle them safely and prevent exposure, accidents, or incidents. In this blog post, we will cover the following topics:

– What are the different routes of exposure to hazmat?

– What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazmat?

– How to store and handle hazmat?

– What is a Safety Data Sheet (SDS)?

– How to manage a hazmat incident?

 What are the different routes of exposure to hazmat?

Hazmat can enter your body through four major routes:

Inhalation: You can breathe in gases and airborne particles through your nose and mouth. This can cause irritation, inflammation, or damage to your respiratory system and other organs.

Absorption: You can absorb dust, smoke, vapors, or liquids through your skin or eyes. This can cause burns, rashes, allergies, or systemic effects.

Ingestion: You can swallow chemicals through your mouth. This can cause poisoning, nausea, vomiting, or damage to your digestive system and other organs.

Injection: You can get injected with chemicals through accidental impact, cuts, or punctures on your skin. This can cause infections, inflammation, or systemic effects.

Effects of Hazmat on Humans

Exposure to hazmat can have short-term or long-term effects on your body. They can be classified as:

Acute effects: These are immediate or short-term effects that occur within minutes or hours of exposure. Some of the symptoms include headache, dizziness, itchiness, vomiting, coughing, or even death.

Chronic effects: These are long-term effects that occur after repeated or prolonged exposure. Some of the effects include cancer, and disorders of the lungs, kidney, liver, or nervous system.

 What is the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) for the classification and labeling of hazmat?

The GHS is an international standard developed by the United Nations to provide a consistent approach to the classification and labeling of chemical hazards. The GHS aims to:

– Facilitate international trade by harmonizing chemical safety regulations and requirements

– Enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing clear and consistent information on chemical hazards

– Simplify the process of updating and maintaining chemical safety information for employers and regulatory agencies

GHS Classification of Hazmat

The GHS classifies hazards into three major groups: health hazards, physical hazards, and environmental hazards. These groups are further subdivided into different classes and categories that indicate the nature and severity of the hazard. For example:

Health hazards: These are hazards that cause adverse effects on human health. There are four classes: acute toxicity (fatal or toxic if swallowed, in contact with skin, or if inhaled), skin corrosion/irritation (causes severe skin burns or irritation), serious eye damage/irritation (causes serious eye damage or irritation), and respiratory or skin sensitization (may cause allergy or asthma symptoms).

Physical hazards: These are hazards that cause damage to the body or physical properties. There are five classes: flammable gases/liquids/solids/aerosols (catch fire easily), gases under pressure (may explode if heated), oxidizing gases/liquids/solids (may cause or intensify fire), corrosive to metals (may damage or destroy metal), and explosives (may explode under certain conditions).

Environmental hazards: These are hazards that cause adverse effects on aquatic organisms or the environment. There is one class: aquatic toxicity (harmful to aquatic life with acute or long-lasting effects).

9 Classes of Hazmat According to GHS Classifications

According to GHS, there are nine classes of hazardous materials, based on their physical, health, or environmental effects. These classes are:

  • Class 1: Explosives: These are materials that can explode under certain conditions, such as heat, shock, or friction. They are subdivided into six categories, depending on the type and degree of explosion hazard.
  • Class 2: Gases: These are materials that are in a gaseous state at normal temperature and pressure. They are subdivided into four categories, depending on the type and degree of flammability, oxidizing potential, or toxicity.
  • Class 3: Flammable liquids: These are liquids or mixtures of liquids that can catch fire easily in contact with air, sparks, flames, or heat sources. They are subdivided into four categories, depending on the flash point and boiling point. The flash point of a material is the lowest temperature at which it can form a flammable vapor-air mixture that can be ignited by an open flame. The flash point is a measure of the flammability or combustibility of a liquid or solid material. The lower the flash point, the more easily the material can catch fire.
  • Class 4: Flammable solids: These are solids or mixtures of solids that can catch fire easily in contact with air, sparks, flames, or heat sources. They are subdivided into three categories, depending on the type and degree of flammability, self-reactivity, or pyrophoricity.
  • Class 5: Oxidizing substances: These are substances or mixtures of substances that can cause or intensify fire by releasing oxygen or other oxidizing substances. They are subdivided into three categories, depending on the type and degree of oxidizing potential.
  • Class 6: Toxic substances: These are substances or mixtures of substances that can cause adverse effects on human health or the environment after exposure. They are subdivided into three categories, depending on the type and degree of acute toxicity, skin corrosion/irritation, serious eye damage/irritation, respiratory or skin sensitization, germ cell mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, reproductive toxicity, specific target organ toxicity (STOT), or aspiration hazard.
  • Class 7: Radioactive substances: These are substances or mixtures of substances that emit ionizing radiation. They are subdivided into seven categories, depending on the activity concentration and transport index.
  • Class 8: Corrosive substances: These are substances or mixtures of substances that can damage or destroy metal surfaces or living tissues by chemical action. They are subdivided into two categories, depending on the degree of corrosivity to metals or skin.
  • Class 9: Miscellaneous hazardous substances: These are substances or mixtures of substances that do not belong to any of the other classes but pose a danger during transport. They include environmentally hazardous substances (aquatic toxicity), self-heating substances, substances that emit flammable gases when in contact with water, organic peroxides, and lithium batteries.

Criteria for Labeling Hazardous Material or Hazmat

The GHS also provides standardized criteria and language for communicating chemical hazards through labels and safety data sheets (SDSs). Labels must include the following elements:

Product identifier: The name or number of the chemical

Supplier information: The name, address, and phone number of the manufacturer or supplier

Pictograms: Symbols that represent the type of hazard

Signal word: A word that indicates the level of hazard (Danger or Warning)

Hazard statements: Phrases that describe the nature and degree of hazard

Precautionary statements: Phrases that provide advice on how to prevent or minimize exposure, accidents, or incidents

What is Safety Data Sheet?

Safety Data Sheet or SDS earlier known as Material Safety Data Sheet. A Safety Data Sheet (SDS) is a comprehensive document that provides detailed information about a hazardous substance or chemical. It serves as a crucial resource for workers, emergency responders, and other individuals who come into contact with or handle hazardous materials.

The SDS contains information about the physical and chemical properties of the substance, its potential health hazards, safe handling and storage procedures, first aid measures, firefighting recommendations, and disposal considerations. It also includes details on the substance’s composition, exposure limits, and regulatory information. The SDS plays a vital role in promoting workplace safety by ensuring that individuals have access to the necessary information to handle hazardous materials properly and respond effectively in case of an emergency.

SDSs must provide detailed information on the chemical’s properties, hazards, handling, storage, disposal, and emergency measures. SDSs must follow a 16-section format that includes:

1. Identification

2. Hazard(s) identification

3. Composition/information on ingredients

4. First-aid measures

5. Fire-fighting measures

6. Accidental release measures

7. Handling and storage

8. Exposure controls/personal protection

9. Physical and chemical properties

10. Stability and reactivity

11. Toxicological information

12. Ecological information

13. Disposal considerations

14. Transport information

15. Regulatory information

16. Other information

 How to store and handle hazmat?

To store and handle hazmat safely, you need to follow these general guidelines:

– Read and follow the instructions on the label and the SDS of the chemical

– Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, masks, or suits

– Use proper tools and equipment for handling and transferring chemicals

– Store chemicals in a cool, dry, well-ventilated, and secure area

– Keep chemicals away from heat, sparks, flames, or incompatible substances

– Label and segregate chemicals according to their hazard class and category

– Inspect and maintain containers and equipment regularly for leaks or damages

– Dispose of chemicals and containers according to local regulations and the SDS

Hazmat Kit

A hazmat kit is a collection of items that are used to respond to and clean up hazardous material spills. The content of a hazmat kit may vary depending on the type and size of the spill, but some common items are:

Personal protective equipment (PPE): This includes safety goggles, gloves, coveralls, masks, and boots that protect the user from exposure to hazardous material.
Absorbents: These are materials that soak up the spilled liquid or solid and prevent it from spreading or seeping into the ground. They can be in the form of pads, socks, pillows, booms, or granules.
Neutralizers: These are chemicals that react with the spilled material and reduce its toxicity, corrosivity, or flammability. They can be in the form of powders, liquids, or sprays.
Containers: These are bags, drums, or buckets that are used to store the contaminated absorbents and neutralizers for proper disposal.
Tools: These are items that help with the spill response and cleanup, such as scoops, brushes, shovels, brooms, or wipes.
Labels: These are stickers or tags that identify the type and hazard of the spilled material and the waste containers.
Instructions: These are sheets or manuals that provide guidance on how to use the hazmat kit and follow the safety procedures.
For example, here is a hazmat kit that can handle up to 18 liters of spill 1:

Absorption capacity: Up to 18 liters/kit
Package/kit contents:
Hi-Viz Green Bag (Qty-1)
Hazmat Pads 15″ x 17” (Qty-10)
Hazmat Socks 3″ x 4 ft (Qty-2)
Disposable Bag (Qty-1)
Gown (Qty-1)
3-ply Mask (Qty-1)
Chemical Splash Goggles (Qty-1)
Nitrile Gloves (Qty-1)
Instruction Sheet (Qty-1)
All-in-One Absorbent SPILL NILL Granular Bottle (Qty-1)

 How to manage a hazmat incident?

A hazmat incident is an unplanned event involving the release or potential release of a hazardous material that poses a risk to health, property, or the environment. Examples of hazmat incidents include spills, leaks, fires, explosions, or exposures. To manage a hazmat incident effectively, you need to follow these steps:

Identify the hazard: Check the label and the SDS of the chemical involved and assess the type and extent of the hazard

Protect yourself and others: Evacuate the area if necessary and call for help from trained personnel or emergency services. Wear appropriate PPE and avoid contact with the chemical or its vapors.

Contain the spill or leak: Use absorbents, barriers, or other materials to stop or limit the spread of the chemical. Do not touch or move any containers or equipment that may be involved in the incident.

Clean up the area: Follow the instructions on the SDS or from the emergency responders on how to decontaminate the area and dispose of the waste materials. Report the incident to your supervisor or manager.

Review and improve: Evaluate the cause and consequences of the incident and identify any corrective actions or preventive measures to avoid similar incidents in the future.


What are hazardous materials?

Hazardous materials are substances or chemicals that can pose a risk to human health, the environment, or property. They may have physical, chemical, or biological properties that can cause harm or danger if not handled properly.

What is the GHS?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is an internationally recognized system that standardizes the classification, labeling, and safety data sheets of hazardous chemicals. It aims to enhance the protection of human health and the environment by providing clear and consistent communication of hazards associated with chemicals.

How can I identify hazardous materials?

Hazardous materials are often labeled with specific hazard symbols, pictograms, or color codes to indicate their potential risks. Additionally, the GHS requires chemicals to have a safety data sheet (SDS) that provides detailed information on their hazards and safe handling procedures.

What are some basic safety measures when handling hazardous materials?

When handling hazardous materials, it is crucial to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, and protective clothing. Follow proper handling procedures, avoid ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact, and ensure adequate ventilation in the work area. It is also essential to have proper training and knowledge of the specific hazards associated with the materials you are handling.

How should hazardous materials be stored?

Hazardous materials should be stored in designated areas that are well-ventilated, secure, and away from incompatible substances. They should be stored in appropriate containers, properly labeled, and segregated based on their compatibility. It is important to follow local regulations and guidelines for storage and to regularly inspect and maintain storage areas for potential leaks or damage.

What should I do in case of a spill or release of hazardous materials?

In case of a spill or release, prioritize personal safety by evacuating the area if necessary and notifying the appropriate authorities or emergency response team. Follow the procedures outlined in the SDS for spill cleanup, using appropriate containment measures and personal protective equipment. Never attempt to handle a spill if you are not trained or equipped to do so.

How can I dispose of hazardous materials safely?

Proper disposal of hazardous materials is critical to prevent harm to the environment and human health. Follow local regulations and guidelines for disposal methods specific to the hazardous materials in question. Contact authorized waste management facilities or hazardous waste disposal services to ensure proper and legal disposal of the materials.

Where can I find more information about handling hazardous materials?

In addition to the safety data sheets provided by the manufacturers, you can consult regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for comprehensive guidelines and resources on handling hazardous materials safely.