Labeling Hazardous Drums


Labeling Hazardous Drums

Drums are large vessels most commonly used for storing and transporting mass quantities of industrial chemicals. As drum labels are used to identify a range of liquid or powder substances, such as petroleum, paints and coatings and food additives, it’s not surprising that the North American drum label market is estimated at $50 million and is a compelling opportunity for expanding your product offering.


The primary function of drum labels is to provide identification and warning information.  The risks of handling and transporting industrial chemicals often requires drum labels to be able to withstand harsh conditions like extreme temperatures, UV exposure and even long-term saltwater submersion. There’s also an increasing demand for barcodes, logistics and tracking to monitor the journeys and delivery of the drums.


Because of their hazardous nature if handled improperly, labeling drums can be a bit more involved than labeling more straightforward products, like cosmetics or retail. Depending on the contents and destination of the drums, labels may have to attain certain durability and communication compliances. Adhering to these strict labeling regulations helps safeguard the health and safety of your employees, the public and the environment while preventing fines and costly accidents. Here’s a breakdown of some common regulations to be mindful of when labeling drums:


GHS (Global Harmonized System)

The GHS was created as an umbrella system of labeling regulations to ensure workers are informed and can prevent every possible danger. The GHS makes international trade safer by establishing global standards for the classification, identification and labeling of chemicals. This common system includes easily understandable symbols and data sheets that are applicable to shipments from countries all across the globe. GHS regulations have played a part in shaping all of the more specific compliances detailed below.


OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Under Hazard Communication Standard 29 CFR 1910.1200, OSHA requires drum labels list the name or identification number of the chemical inside, hazard warnings and the name, address and phone number of whom to contact in an emergency. It also requires that critical information about chemical hazards are conveyed on labels “using quick visual notations” that alert users to recognize any potential hazards immediately—for example—pictograms, signal words, hazard and precautionary statements. Using these clear indications reduces the risk of accident and protects your clients from liabilities associated with working with hazardous chemicals. Although it’s recommended to include instructions for handling the chemical inside, Safety Data Sheets remain the complete resource for the details of hazardous chemicals due to the space and design limitations of drum labels.

Source: OSHA


DOT (Department of Transportation)

When shipping hazardous materials, DOT requires drums to be marked with hazard class labels under 49 CFR. These labels use universally recognized symbols and terms inside a color-coded diamond to depict the hazard. The specifications for labeling and placarding will vary according to the class of the hazard. This method makes the inherent risks of the chemicals explicitly clear to anyone coming in contact with the drums throughout the transportation process.

Source: U.S. Forest Service


British Standard 5609 (BS 5609)

BS 5609 is the highest standard for label durability in the industry. It is required for all hazardous materials being transported by sea that need an International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) certification. To obtain the BS 5609 certification, labels need to withstand a three-month saltwater submersion test and be highly resistant to salt spray, sunlight, sand and abrasion. This is to ensure the information on labels will remain readable if a drum falls off the side of a ship and washes ashore.



Complying with the necessary regulations for labeling drums containing hazardous chemicals clearly helps protect people and the environment. Taking the necessary steps to accurately label drums also protects your profit margins and bottom line, as using the wrong label could result in noncompliance fines and even more costly accidents. Therefore, it’s important to work with an experienced team to create drum labels that meet industry regulations as well as your unique business needs.


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