What does HMIS stand for?

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HMIS stands for Hazardous Materials Identification System. It is a rating system that uses numbers and colors to alert people of hazards associated with specific materials. This system was developed by the American Coatings Association with the intent of complying with OSHA Hazard Communication Standards. Today HMIS is used by many different industries because it is a simple way to show what type of danger is present, while also remaining in line with OSHA’s HazCom requirements.

HMIS Color Bar

One of the main components of HMIS is the colors that are used to alert people to hazards. Similar to the NFPA Fire Diamond, these colors make it easy for people to recognize specific hazards at just a glance. The colors are as follows:

  • Blue – Blue is used to indicate a health-related hazard.
  • Red – Red is used to indicate a fire related hazard.
  • Yellow or Orange – Yellow or orange is used for identifying reactivity or physical hazards.
  • White – White is used to indicate the need for personal protection equipment.

HMIS Number Ratings

In addition to the colors, the HMIS system uses numbers to indicate the severity of a specific hazard. The number rating goes from zero to four. If a material is rated a zero in one category that means that it represents no significant risk. As the number goes up, this is an indication that the hazard is getting more severe. A level four hazard will indicate that there is a life-threatening hazard associated with that material.

Each material will be given a number rating in each color section, even if there is no risk. It is quite common to have a material be rated a zero in some categories, but higher in others. This is one of the strengths of the HMIS system since it can indicate the general hazard level in multiple different categories at just a glance.

The white (personal protection equipment) does not indicate the level of hazard, but rather the level of personal protection equipment needed. A material that is rated a zero in the white section, for example, won’t require any type of PPE at all.

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