GHS Globally Harmonised System
of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals

BS5609 Compliant Labels

Labelling of chemicals - general

Labelling of chemicals, or mixtures of chemicals, can take many forms, for example products may have the information pre printed on the packaging i.e. a blister pack or the chemical container itself, or by addition of a separate self adhesive label.

High volume labelling

Large volumes of the same chemical/mixture are likely to be labelled during manufacture using a filling line with an automated labelling station. The labels used will be pre printed with the relevant information and designed specifically for high speed labelling applications. This is not an area that we will cover here.

Small volume labelling

At the other end of the scale, run lengths of typically 10000 items or less, the labelling issues have in the past been addressed by pre printing the fixed information including blank warning diamonds onto labels and adding the variable data specific to the substance/mixture by black thermal transfer overprinting.

No warning diamonds can be left unpopulated

The labelling requirements of GHS mean that you can no longer produce a pre printed ‘template’ label as warning diamonds cannot be left unpopulated. For short runs e.g. 1000 labels this would make a bespoke pre printed label very costly.

To produce short runs there are two main options as the labels have to be printed in 2 colours:

Labels on roll

Colour thermal transfer printer – typical cost £5000 upwards
Colour roll laser printer – typical cost £7000 upwards (more commonly £25000+ for a robust model)

Labels on sheets

Colour ‘sheet’ laser printer – typical cost £419 (C612 Colour Printer)

BS5609 approved labels

Although only self adhesive labels requiring IMDG specification must be BS5609 approved the standard is used widely as an indicator of a very robust label. It is good practice to use a BS5609 approved label for hazardous chemicals and particularly in situations where harsh conditions exist e.g. exposure to weather, inhospitable production environments, unprotected transport etc

The ‘PCL’ Matt White PE label material is approved to BS5609 Part 2 and when printed using OKI printer models (C610, C711, C9655, C931, ES6410, ES7411, ES9431 and ES9541) is also approved to BS5609 Part 3. This partnership between the label manufacturers (PCL Labels) and printer manufacturers OKI provides a unique, fully warranted, cost effective solution to your short run labelling requirements requiring BS5609 approval.

Labels sizes

PCL labels are available in over 300 different label sizes as standard in the BS5609 material (rectangles, squares, circles, ovals) and can be produced as bespoke sizes to suit a particular requirement if required.

Regulations for labels

The GHS legislation lays down specific requirements for minimum label sizes to be used for particular pack sizes and these are based round the ‘A’ series of dimensions.

The most popular sizes are:

Capacity of Package Minimum Label size  
Not exceeding 3 litres 52 x 74mm
Greater than 3 litres but not exceeding 50 litres 74 x 105mm
Greater than 50 litres but not exceeding 500 litres 105 x 148mm
Greater than 500 litres 148 x 210mm

These minimum sizes cover only what is legally required to be printed on the label but as most companies will want to add other information e.g. logo, batch numbers etc then A4 labels (L1/210297HZ) will also be used and it is likely that labels larger than specified will be used for the different container sizes e.g. A5 label (L2/210148BCHZ) on 50 litre bottle gives room for requirements of the legislation plus personalization, batch details etc.

Additional information may also be required in the form of Transportation symbols. These can either be produced as a separate label or, as OKI printers are able to print ‘banner length’ sheets, PCL Matt White PE (BS5609) can be produced as a long sheet in order to combine the requirements of both the package and transport information e.g. 210 x 450mm, 210 x 900mm

For more information on label sizes available in the Matt White PE (BS5609) and other labelling materials approved by OKI for general requirements visit

Using the right label costs pennies...

Use the wrong one and it could cost the earth...