How does the Globally Harmonized System of Labeling affect NFPA 704?

Blog Post created by nancypearce Employee on Jun 18, 2015

As of June 1, 2015 most of the provisions of OSHA's revised Hazard Communication Standard are in affect including the requirement for manufacturers to label containers with new GHS labels.   NFPA continues to get calls and emails asking "Is NFPA changing the 704 ratings to match GHS hazard classifications?".   The short answer to this question is NO!


The NFPA 704 standard and OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard were developed for different purposes.   Now that OSHA has adopted GHS,  both systems involve numbers leading to many questions about how the two numbers systems relate.  The NFPA 704 standard is widely used and recognized by fire and emergency responders and safety personnel for identifying the hazards of short term/acute exposure to materials under conditions of fire, spill, or similar emergencies. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) provides information for workers exposed to materials primarily under normal conditions of use.  It is important to realize that the GHS numbers used in the OSHA standards are not relative ratings of hazards but rather used for the purpose of classifying hazards into categories for proper labeling and training information. These GHS numbers ARE NOT relative hazard ratings and in fact have an inverse number systems with 1 being the most hazardous and 4 being the least hazardous. It is important to understand the differences between the two systems. For more information, NFPA and OSHA have developed a “Quick Card” to explain the two systems and their differences. The downloadable card can be found by clicking here.