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3rd May, 2017

Chemical Hazard Symbols And Meanings

The old orange square COSHH symbols are finally being phased out for good on the 1st of June 2017.

That gives you one month to get your head around the new chemical hazard symbols and their meanings.

Don’t worry though. You should already be fairly familiar with the new red diamond symbols. They have been around since 2010!

So already 7 years old, the red diamonds will be everywhere from next month (well, not everywhere, but on any hazardous chemicals or mixtures!).

What are these hazards and what do they mean?

coshh explosive



  • Unstable explosive
  • Explosive; mass explosion hazard.
  • Explosive; severe projection hazard.
  • Explosive; fire, blast or projection hazard.
  • May mass explode in fire.
coshh flammable



  • Extremely flammable gas.
  • Flammable gas.
  • Extremely flammable aerosol.
  • Flammable aerosol.
  • Highly flammable liquid and vapour.
  • Flammable liquid and vapour.
  • Flammable solid .
coshh oxidising



  • May cause or intensify fire; oxidiser.
  • May cause fire or explosion; strong oxidiser.
  • Usually found on bleach, oxygen for medical purposes etc.
coshh gases

Gas under pressure


  • Contains gas under pressure - may explode if heated.
  • Contains refrigerated gas - may cause cryogenic burns or injury.
  • Usually found on gas containers.
coshh corrosive



  • May be corrosive to metals.
  • Causes severe skin burns and eye damage.
  • Usually found on drain cleaners, acetic acid, hydrochloric acid, ammoniac etc.
coshh toxic



  • Fatal if swallowed.
  • Fatal in contact with skin.
  • Fatal if inhaled.
  • Toxic: if swallowed.
  • Toxic in contact with skin.
  • Toxic if inhaled.
coshh caution



  • May cause respiratory irritation.
  • May cause drowsiness or dizziness.
  • May cause an allergic skin reaction.
  • Causes serious eye irritation.
  • Causes skin irritation.
  • Harmful if swallowed.
  • Harmful in contact with skin.
  • Harmful if inhaled.
  • Harms public health and the environment by destroying ozone in the upper atmosphere.
coshh long term

Long Term Health Hazards


  • May be fatal if swallowed and enters airways.
  • Causes damage to organs.
  • May cause damage to organs.
  • May damage fertility or the unborn child.
  • Suspected of damaging fertility or the unborn child.
  • May cause cancer.
  • Suspected of causing cancer.
  • May cause genetic defects.
  • Suspected of causing genetic defects.
  • May cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled.
coshh environment

Dangerous for the environment


  • Very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.
  • Toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects.
  • Usually found on pesticides, biocides, petrol, turpentine etc.

Want to help make your team aware? Download the free COSHH symbols PDF download today, and you can also get COSHH assessment templates for your work activities.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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