PHMSA Interpretation #07-0156

Sep 28, 2007

PHMSA Response Letter

Sep 28, 2007


Mr. Michael Morrisette                          Reference No. 07-0156
Dangerous Goods Advisory Council
1100 H Street, NW Suite 740
Washington, DC 20005

Dear Mr. Morrisette:

This responds to your February 22, 2007 letter requesting clarification of labeling requirements under the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180). Specifically, you ask whether pictograms described in the UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) are prohibited under § 172.401 of the HMR.

For purposes of clarifying language in this letter, the GHS defines a pictogram as “a graphical composition that includes a (hazard) symbol plus other graphic elements, such as a border, background pattern or color that is intended to convey specific information” and GHS states all hazard pictograms should be in the shape of a square set at a point (i.e., square-on- point). This definition and design of GHS pictograms is similar to the label specifications in § 172.407 of the HMR.

Section § 172.401(b) prohibits the transportation of a package bearing any marking or label which by its color, design, or shape could be confused or conflict with a hazard warning label prescribed in the HMR. The prohibition is intended to preserve the effectiveness of DOT’s hazard warning communication system by preventing dilution of the distinctive DOT labels. Pictograms (on labels) developed in accordance with the labeling procedures of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS (Rev. 1) (2005)) and displayed on packages used in transportation are not prohibited under § 172.401. The GHS was the result of an international effort supported by the United States, which included representation from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and U.S. DOT. The pictograms employed by the GHS were developed based largely on the existing hazard communication standards for transport to ensure consistency of hazard communication for a variety of applications and contexts. As such, the GHS pictograms are intentionally consistent with the symbols used in the labels and placards required by the HMR and used in international regulations and standards including the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Technical Instructions on the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods, the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code, and the United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. Therefore, when displayed in accordance with the GHS, we do not consider these pictograms to be confusing or conflicting in accordance with § 172.401(b) of the HMR. Additionally, this clarification will be proposed in a future rulemaking.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if you require additional assistance.



Edward T. Mazzullo
Director, Office of Hazardous
Materials Standards

172.401, 172.407