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NFPA 704 - A Brief Overview

NFPA 704 - A Quick Overview

What is NFPA 704?

NFPA 704 is the standard that is intended to provide a simple, readily recognized, and easily understood system of markings. These markings will provide a general idea of the hazards of a material and the severity of these hazards as they relate to emergency response.

In more specific terms the objectives of the system are to:

  • To provide an appropriate signal or alert and on-the-spot information to safeguard the lives of both public and private emergency response personnel
  • To assist in planning for effective fire and emergency control operations, including cleanup
  • To assist all designated personnel, engineers, and plant and safety personnel in evaluating hazards

The system shall also enable fire-fighting, emergency, and other personnel to easily decide whether to evacuate the area or to commence emergency control procedures. It shall also assist those personnel in selecting fire-fighting tactics and emergency procedures.

Where do I need to post NFPA 704 signs?

Signs shall be in locations approved by the authority having jurisdiction and as a minimum shall be posted at the following locations:

  • Two exterior walls or enclosures containing a means of access to a building or facility
  • Each access to a room or area
  • Each principal means of access to an exterior storage area

What do the colors and ratings in each diamond mean?

Blue - Health Hazard Rating

This relates to the capability of a material to cause personal injury due to contact with or entry into the body via inhalation, skin contact, eye contact, or ingestion. All ratings are determined under emergency conditions.

4 Materials that can be lethal
3 Materials that can cause serious or permanent injury
2 Materials that can cause temporary incapacitation or residual injury
1 Materials that can cause significant irritation
0 Materials that would offer no hazard beyond that of ordinary combustible material

Red - Flammability Hazard Rating

This relates to the degree of susceptibility of materials to burning.

4 Materials that rapidly or completely vaporize at atmospheric pressure and normal ambient temperature or that are readily dispersed in air and burn readily
3 Liquids and solids (including finely divided suspended solids) that can be ignited under almost all ambient temperature conditions
2 Materials that must be moderately heated or exposed to relatively high ambient temperatures before ignition can occur
1 Materials that must be preheated before ignition can occur
0 Materials that will not burn under typical fire conditions

Yellow - Instability Hazard Rating

This relates to the degree of hazard due to reaction with ambient air, light, or both, and the degree of intrinsic susceptibility of materials to release energy by self-reaction or polymerization.

4 Materials that in themselves are readily capable of detonation or explosive decomposition or explosive reaction at normal temperatures and pressures
3 Materials that in themselves are capable of detonation or explosive decomposition or explosive reaction, but require a strong initiating source or must be heated under confinement before initiation
2 Materials that readily undergo violent chemical change at elevated temperatures and pressures
1 Materials that in themselves are normally stable, but which can become unstable at elevated temperatures and pressures
0 Material that in themselves are normally stable, even under fire conditions

White - Special Hazards

This area of the diamond shall address water reactivity and oxidizing properties of the materials that cause special problems or require special fire-fighting techniques.

OX Material possesses oxidizing properties
Material that reacts violently or explosively with water
SA Material is a simple asphyxiant

Non-Standard Special Hazard Symbols

These special hazard symbols and others are not part of the NFPA 704 standard, but may be used if permitted by the authority having jurisdiction.

ACID Material is an acid
ALK Material is a base (alkali)
COR Material is corrosive
CRY Material is cryogenic
POI Material that is poisonous
Material is radioactive

For a more detailed look at NFPA 704, please visit our Help Center.

Source: National Fire Protection Association - NFPA 704 does not recommend or specify the use of a specific safety sign because it does not have knowledge of the hazard(s) our customers are identifying. It is the customer’s sole responsibility to identify the hazard(s) that may be present and select one or more signs (stock or custom) that accurately identify their specific hazard(s) and complies with any applicable federal, state or local laws or regulations, any worksite specific rules or regulations and/or any applicable safety standards (including, without limitation, ANSI and/or OSHA standards). disclaims any and all liability (excluding liability for our Product Warranty contained in our Terms and Conditions) for any sign selected by a customer and shall not be responsible for any personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of signs purchased from it or for the independent interpretation made of any applicable federal, state or local laws or regulations, any worksite specific rules or regulations, and/or any applicable safety standards (including, without limitation, ANSI and/or OSHA standards). Customer shall indemnify and hold and its corporate parent and its officers, directors and affiliates harmless from and against any and all claims, loss or expense (including attorneys’ fees) arising from or related to the purchase and use by customer or any third party of any sign purchased by customer from

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