Using NFPA ratings for CLP

The NFPA (National Fire Protection Authority) rating is used in the USA to provide advice on hazardous materials to emergency responders.  It is a label comprising a diamond containing 4 smaller diamonds, covering (from the left, moving clockwise):

  • blue diamond – health hazard
  • red diamond – fire hazard
  • yellow diamond – reactivity hazard
  • white diamond – specific hazard (e.g. acid/ alkali/ corrosive/ oxidiser, if water should not be used, simple asphyxiant gas, and radioactive hazard)

The coloured diamonds contain a number from 0 (no hazard) to 4 (most severe hazard) indicating the level of hazard present; and the bottom of the diagram, the white diamond contains letters or symbols to show the specific hazard.

The NFPA diamond layout (click on image to enlarge it).

NFPA labels are additional to GHS and supply hazard communication, and are intended to be placed on building walls or doors into a storage area.  (This information may sometimes supplied on SDSs from the USA).

It may be possible to use NFPA ratings to help with CLP classifications, because some of the classes are based on threshold limits.  However, these are very broad groupings, and e.g. the health hazard includes skin and eye effects, including sensitisation, as well as the acute toxicity classes for CLP; also the fire hazard may include combustible dusts, not just flammable liquids.

If you need to interpret an NFPA label, it is strongly suggested you read NFPA:704, which is the standard covering this area.  It can be viewed online for free (but not downloaded) at (click on the “open access” button, although you will need to provide a valid email address before being able to view the code); and you can also buy a copy, current price in 2017 is $47.50 .  Note that the NFPA codes are updated regularly, but it is possible to view older versions of documents on their website if you are dealing with historic information.


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