COSHH/CLP Symbols Demystified

Too often when delivering sessions on COSHH management and assessments, I noticed my trainees have a tough time getting used to the COSSH symbols and what they represent. Many are aware of the old symbols and can’t seem to grasp what the new symbols represent as some of the new ones look nothing like the old ones. So this post will explain in detail what the COSHH symbols represent. This symbols are also referred to as CLP symbols – CLP meaning Classification, Labelling and Packaging. This post help when carrying out COSHH assessments and assessing/analysing chemical hazards. This is another useful post on chemical hazards.

Here are the old symbols (European symbols)

Here are the new ones (international symbols) which I will be focusing on today.

New COSHH/CLP symbols

Image from ROSPA Workplace Safety

These COSHH/CLP symbols help identify the harmful nature of chemicals. One or more might of these symbols might appear on a single chemical. Luckily they are numbered in the image on the left thanks to ROSPA. So for uniformity and to avoid confusion, I will be explaining each of them as they appear numbered in this image. Please make sure you look at the symbols attached to numbers 1 to 9 as you go through their meanings below.

  1. This signifies that the substance is hazardous to the aquatic environment. It may be toxic with long lasting effects.

  2. Toxic substance. Can cause damage to health even at low levels.

  3. Contains gas under pressure. May explode when heated.

  4. Corrosive. Can destroy or damage living tissue such as the eye or skin, when it comes into contact with it.

  5. Explosives.

  6. Flammable. May catch fire even in contact with air or with brief contact with ignition sources. It may also release flammable gases when in contact with water.

  7. Harmful and also signifies caution. Used for subtances with less serious health hazards.

  8. Oxidising. May intensify fire.

  9. Signfies serious longer term health hazards such as carcinogenity and respiratory sensitization. It may cause breathing difficulties if inhaled or even allergy or asthma symptoms.

The international symbols replaces the European symbols. As you can see from the images above, some of the symbols are similar to the European symbols but there are no words describing the hazards or what they represent. Instead of the hazard symbols with black symbols on orange rectangles, there are now 9 hazard pictograms with black symbols on a white background with red-rimmed rhombuses.