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Hazardous Materials Identification System - HMIS



The Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) is a hazard rating system that uses color bar labels to identify and provide information about chemical hazards. It was developed by, and is proprietary to the National Paint Coatings Association (NPCA), now known as the American Coatings Association (ACA). HMIS is a registered mark owned by NPCA.

HMIS labels are similar in many respects to NFPA diamond RTK  labels, and many workplaces use the same rating systems for both.

In addition to official HMIS labels, which are only available through one supplier, other color bar style RTK labels are available through suppliers such as DuraLabel. Although not officially HMIS labels, DuraLabel color bar labels are used to communicate the same information as HMIS labels communicate.

Comparing The NFPA Diamond and HMIS RTK LabelsNFPA diamond labels

NFPA diamond labels, HMIS labels, and color bar RTK labels all provide basically the same information. But they do provide it in different ways. The most significant difference is that the yellow diamond in the NFPA diamond has been replaced with an orange bar on the HMIS label. The yellow diamond is used to rate the instability (or reactivity) of the material.   The orange bar on color bar RTK labels is used in the same way. On HMIS labels the orange bar is defined as rating the level of the physical hazard.

HMIS Blue Bar ? Health Hazards:

For blue, the NFPA and HMIS rating systems are the same. The health section of an HMIS label conveys the health hazards of the material.
0 ? This material presents no health hazard. No precautions are needed.
1 ? Exposure the material will cause an irritation and result in minor residual injuries.
2 ? The material may be harmful if inhaled or absorbed. Intense or continued exposure might cause temporary incapacitation. There may be a residual injury even with treatment.
3 ? A short exposure may cause serious temporary or moderate residual injury even with prompt medical treatment. These materials are corrosive or toxic. Avoid skin contact or inhalation.
4 ? A short exposure may result in death. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is required. These chemicals can penetrate ordinary rubber protective gear.

In addition to the numerical rating, the HMIS allows for an asterisk to be used in a separate box in the blue bar to indicate that long term exposure may cause health problems.

HMIS Red Bar - Flammability

There are three HMIS standards that have been issued by NPCA. For the HMIS I and II standards, the criteria for the numerical values in the red bar are the same as for the NFPA diamond. For HMIS III the criteria are the OSHA standards. Here are the two standards:


0 ? Not combustible. The material will not burn in air when exposed to a temperature of 1,500 (F) for five minutes.

1 ? Combustible when exposed to a temperature of 1,500 (F) for less than five minutes, or which has a flash point above 200 (F).

2 ? Under normal ambient conditions, this material does not form a hazardous atmosphere. Under high ambient temperatures or moderate heating, it will produce a hazardous atmosphere. These substances may be solids that readily give off hazardous gases or liquids with a flash point above 100 (F) and below 200 (F).

3 ? These are solids and liquids that can be ignited under ambient conditions. Liquids with this rating have a flash point below 100 (F). This rating also includes combustible dusts, fibrous solids and materials that have self-contained oxygen.

4 ? Flammable gas or extremely flammable liquids. Materials which form explosive mixtures with air.


0 ? Material that will not burn
1 ? Materials that have a flash point above 200 ?F.
2 ? Materials that have a flash point at or above 100 ?F (38 ?C) but below 200 ?F (93 ?C).
3 ? OSHA Class IB materials which are liquids having flashpoints below 73 deg. F. (22.8 deg. C.) and having a boiling point at or above 100 deg. F. (37.8 deg. C.)
4 ? OSHA Class IA materials include liquids having flashpoints below 73 deg. F. (22.8 deg. C.) and having a boiling point below 100 deg. F. (37.8 deg. C.)

HMIS Orange Bar - Physical Hazard

The HMIS physical hazard level ratings are:

0 ? Materials that do not react with most materials and pose no physical hazard.
1 ? Materials that are stable at normal temperatures and pressures. However, they may become unstable at elevated temperatures and pressures, and may react with water.
2 ? Materials that may have violent reactions at normal temperatures and pressures.
3 ? Materials that may create explosive mixtures at normal temperatures and pressures.
4 ? Materials that may explode at normal temperatures and pressures.

HMIS White Bar - Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)

In the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) the white bar is used to show the level of personal protective equipment that needs to be used. An alphabetical system is used, with letters indicating the level of protection required:

A - safety glasses
B - safety glasses and gloves
C - safety glasses, gloves and an apron
D - face shield, gloves and an apron
E - safety glasses, gloves and a dust respirator
F - safety glasses, gloves, apron and a dust respirator
G - safety glasses, a vapor respirator
H - splash goggles, gloves, apron and a vapor respirator
I - safety glasses, gloves and a dust/vapor respirator
J - splash goggles, gloves, apron and a dust/vapor respirator
K - hood or mask, gloves, full suit and boots
L - custom PPE specified by employer

While HMIS labels are propriety to the NPCA (ACA) and are only available through a single source, Color Bar labels are available in a wide range of sizes. With DuraLabel you can get RTK labels in more sizes, including unique extra large label sizes, that aren't available from any other label supplier. Plus every desktop DuraLabel printer comes with RTK database software that makes tracking and printing RTK labels quick and easy.