9 COSHH Hazard Symbols with Meanings

COSHH stands for Control of Substance Hazardous to Health. It contains regulations concerned with using certain hazardous substances at the workplace. The term and the directions were invented in 1988. The rules have been reformed to include new hazardous substances into the framework. Knowledge of 9 COSHH hazard symbols with meanings is important. It makes sure employees abide by the regulations. It ensures the safety of workers by taking adequate precautions where needed.

Table of Contents

What is COSHH?

Danger symbols are also called hazard pictograms. These are illustrations that warn people of the presence of a dangerous material. The pictograms are often used on the packaging of a drug or chemical that is either hazardous or contains a hazardous component. Besides, the pictograms depict how the substance could be dangerous. At present, there are over 100000 chemicals and hazardous substances in the European inventory alone. The substances are listed under the nine official COSHH hazard symbols and its regulations. 

However, COSHH does not include lead, asbestos or substances with radioactive properties. Because these substances have a separate set of regulations that needs to be followed. The CLP legislation modified the 9 COSHH hazard symbols and the pictograms in Europe in 2008. The previous orange and black characters used for years were gradually phased out by the new diamond-shaped red and black COSHH hazard symbols. However, the hazardous category or caution level of the symbols remained unchanged. 

Importance of COSHH Hazard Symbols In Workplace

COSHH law and regulations are critical for employers and workplaces. Because it ensures that risk assessments are conducted to identify possible risks. It protects workers by limiting drug exposure. Besides, the regulations provide information and training to all employees. Hence, every employee needs to be wary of 9 COSHH hazard symbols with meanings.

To avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals, there are advanced COSHH assessments. To detect the threat, all businesses must conduct COSHH risk assessments. Besides, it’s possible that a company won’t be able to address the problem effectively. So, at the office, monitoring mechanisms must be applied. Employers are required to provide hazardous material training to all workers. Following the risk assessment, training should concentrate on explaining:

  • What the issues are.
  • What the risks are to one’s well-being that the issue presents
  • And what to do if anything goes wrong.

COSHH hazard symbols make you reconsider the material that you use at the workplace. In addition, it lets you put in place new control measures. So, COSHH compliance is necessary throughout the business operation.

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What are the 9 COSHH hazard symbols, & What Do They Mean?

There is no rigid terminology for the nine types of COSHH hazard symbols. These symbols usually categorize substances & mixtures classified as harmful or life-threatening. Various biological agents fall under COSHH regulations. For instance, paint, printing solvent and even bakery flour. Furthermore, dust and other substances of comparable hazard are considered dangerous for the work environment. Thus, these are categorized under COSHH hazard symbols. 

The packaging of the material should label the particular COSHH hazard symbol if it is hazardous. In addition, labelling is also a good practice to educate the employees. It will ensure that they do not endanger themselves or others unknowingly. 

We will discuss the 9 COSHH hazard symbols with meanings in this blog. So that you can easily identify if any substance is hazardous under one or more categories of  COSHH hazard symbols.

1. Explosives

This explosive label is put on the container of chemicals or substances that have a high chance of exploding if mishandled in an unstable environment. An explosive chemical is a solid or liquid chemical. It is capable of delivering gas at a high temperature, pressure, and speed. Therefore, it can cause damage to the environment through a chemical reaction.

Explosives sign

The character inside the symbol is of an exploding bomb. In short, these substances have a mass explosion hazard if caught on fire. Fireworks and Ammonium nitrate are two examples. The substances are labelled under the explosive category.

2. Flammable

Chemicals that can catch fire when exposed to air, vapour, water or an ignition source even for a brief period fall under Flammable COSHH hazard symbol. These substances usually have a very low flash point. It is generally below 37.8 degree Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In actuality, the mixture of air and vapour is ignited as flammable liquids or solids do not burn on their own.

Flammable Sign

Typical household or workplace products that contain ethanol or methanol are flammable chemicals. For instance, industrial solvents, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes, and polishes.

3. Oxidizing

The pictogram is a symbol of flame on top of a circle. Oxidizing materials are liquids or solids. They emit oxygen or other oxidizing substances readily. Furthermore, the materials react exothermically with other chemicals, which sometimes cause intensified fire. 

Oxidizing Sign

Besides, strong oxidizers may cause a huge explosion. These hazardous substances can cause chemically stable substances that usually do not burn in the air to rapidly do so. Bromine, bromates, perchloric acid, nitric acid are dominant examples of oxidizing substances. These substances fall under COSHH hazard symbols.

4. Gas under Pressure

This pictogram is of a gas cylinder. It is a new addition to the COSHH hazard symbols. It indicates that gases are contained under high pressure in a cylinder. Besides, it may include liquefied or refrigerated gas, which might be hazardous. Gas under pressure can be harmful in a workplace. So, workers need to handle it with care.

Gas under Pressure Sign

If the cylinder overheats, the gas might cause it to explode. Consequently,  if the valve of cylinders isn’t closed tightly,  the refrigerated gas causes frostbite. Compressed, dissolved, liquefied and refrigerated gases are prime categories of this hazard class.

5. Corrosive

This pictogram or symbol depicts chemicals spilling on a hand and metal surface. The chemical instantly eats away both of them. A corrosive substance is one that can damage or destroy other substances through a chemical reaction when they come into contact with it.

Corrosive Sign

Corrosive chemicals may cause lifelong damage to skin and eyes if they come into contact. Workplaces that deal with corrosive chemicals should provide employees PPE and necessary goggles. It ensures the adequate safety of their health. Nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, ammonia, drain cleaners etc., are corrosive substances.

6. Toxic

The symbol illustrates a skull and two crossbones. You can find this hazardous symbol on the packaging of various substances. These substances can cause severe and fatal damage to health. Even if the exposure period was very brief or the particles inhaled and swallowed were in the lowest quantity. 

Consequently, the hazardous substances can cause severe damage to the skin if in contact. Mercury and chlorine gas are two common examples of toxic, hazardous substances.

7. Dangerous for the Environment

Environmentally hazardous COSHH signs are displayed on containers that contain substances highly toxic to aquatic organisms. Hazardous substances can endanger one or more areas of the environment. It can have a prolonged harmful effect on the environment if misused or overused. The symbol illustrates a dead fish alongside a dead tree. 

Dangerous for the Environment Sign

The material and its container need to be disposed of safely. Make sure that the containers have tight-fitting lids. Moreover, the hazardous material needs to be kept in a cool, well-ventilated area. You should take some safety precautions while handling substances under this hazard symbol. Biocides, pesticides, turpentine etc., are packaged with this COSHH hazard symbol.

8. Health Hazard

This symbol is used as a warning sign or as a sign of awareness. The symbol is usually found on the packaging of substances. The hazardous substances are capable of causing damage to the ozone layer. Corrosion of the ozone layer is a cautionary situation for the health of humankind. Besides, substances falling under this category can cause damage to the eye and skin. It might even cause an allergic reaction. Respiratory irritation and dizziness are some other side effects, to name a few.

Health Hazard Sign

Oils, dusty environment and toxic fumes are labelled under this COSHH hazard symbol.

9. Serious Health Hazard

The symbol represents a person with serious internal damage. This COSHH hazard symbol categorizes substances that can cause serious damage to health. It may even lead to death if inhaled or swallowed. These substances cause internal damage to the organs and affect fertility or pregnancy. Besides, it can cause genetic defects. Furthermore, these materials could be the cause of cancer in human beings. 

A cigarette is a fine example of a serious health hazard.

How to keep the work environment safe?

The employer must eliminate or reduce the dangers posed by hazardous substances. This can be accomplished by risk evaluation, measures of control. If necessary, health and exposure will be monitored by the employer. Consequently, an employer  needs to inform, educate and supervise the employees.

Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
This course will provide you with all the deep knowledge and insight you need to know about this topic.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
This course will provide you with all the deep knowledge and insight you need to know about this topic.


All employees working with hazardous substances must be familiar with regular assessments. Employers need to prevent and manage potential health hazards. This is a key point of COSHH regulation.  In order to do that, everyone involved in your organization must have sound knowledge of the COSHH hazard symbols. Moreover, workers should manage safety data sheets regularly.

May 4, 2023

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