Learn about NFPA Color Codes

NFPA Color Codes

What are the NFPA color codes?

The NFPA color codes are part of the NFPA 704 standard for the identification of hazardous materials. These color codes help emergency responders know about potential health, fire, and chemical instability issues.

The NFPA 704 diamond sign used to display this information has four colored sections: blue, red, yellow, and white. Each section is used to identify a different category of potential hazard.

The blue section of the NFPA color code symbolizes health hazards. A health hazard rating is determined by the potential for a material to pose risks beyond those of ordinary combustible materials. If emergency personnel are not using the specialized personal protective equipment and are exposed to materials that are rated at the highest health hazard severity, the consequences could be lethal.

Flammability hazards are displayed with the red color code. As different materials have different flash points, it is important to rate them and alert responders to this information. Natural gas, for instance, is highly flammable under normal temperatures and pressures and is one material with the highest rating for this color code.

Instability, or reactivity, is shown in the yellow area. This part of the color code is for materials that could be unstable during an emergency situation. Instability can vary from minor chemical changes to explosive reactions.

The last section of the NFPA color code is white. This area is often blank, as it is intended for special hazards beyond health, flammability, or instability and do not apply to a majority of hazardous materials. This section only has two symbols that are recognized by the NFPA: one that represents a material that reacts violently with water and another symbol for materials that oxidize.

For more information about the full NFPA 704 hazard rating system and standard, click here.

What is the NFPA?

The NFPA is a non-profit organization that promotes safety standards, education, and advocacy on fire and electrical-related hazards. Learn more...

What does the NFPA hazard rating system mean?

The NFPA hazard rating system is part of NFPA 704: Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response. NFPA 704 defines a code of colors, numbers, and symbols for emergency personnel to identify hazardous materials. Learn more about these codes here.

What is NFPA 704?

NFPA 704: Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response is a safety standard that defines how hazardous materials are identified for emergency responders. Learn more...

What is NFPA 170?

NFPA 170: Standard for Fire Safety and Emergency Symbols is a safety standard that defines fire safety, emergency, and other related safety symbols for use in signage, diagrams, and plans. Learn more...

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