Proper Container Labeling


The following scenario is fictitious, but its possibility is all too real. The components for such a disaster are found in many camps, just waiting to be misused.

Sitting on a bench in the free-weight area is a plastic bottle with a pistol-grip spray filled with a clear liquid. On a hot August afternoon after a grueling workout, a weight lifter new to the facility grabs the bottle and squirts his friend around the head, face, and neck. He laughs and says “You look like you could use some cooling off,” probably assuming, if he considered it at all, that the unlabeled bottle was filled with water. Suddenly his friend is screaming in pain. What happened?

Obviously, the liquid was not water. What was it? Pretty hard to tell, and that is the problem. It could be several things, all of which legally require labeling whether in original packaging or in secondary containers (i.e., any packaging other than that in which it was sent from the manufacturer), such as:

  • isopropyl alcohol - a commonly used surface disinfectant on equipment
  • diluted sodium hypochlorite (e.g., Clorox┬« and water) - commonly used as a surface disinfectant
  • solution of 35% quaternary ammonia and water - often used as a surface disinfectant

Compounds like those listed above are frequently bought in bulk to save money. If used from the original container any reasonable person would identify the danger because of the familiar brand label and/or the prominent warnings present. However, unlabeled containers provide no warning to patrons or staff. All secondary containers, as well as original containers whose labels are faded, damaged, or otherwise non-communicative, should be provided with labeling that provides the same identification and warnings that were present on the original packaging.

Common consumer items like Clorox® and isopropyl alcohol are frequently overlooked by industrial hazardous communications standards, but the exposure to harm clearly exists. Many people have skin sensitive enough to react to even dilute solutions of sodium hypochlorite. If the person in the scenario above is a recovering alcoholic who uses antabuse as part of his or her recovery program, the slightest exposure to alcohol in any form may cause a violent reaction.

Minimizing simple risks can pay great dividends by reducing or eliminating problems. Patrons' behavior cannot always be controlled but you can reduce the potential for inadvertent harm by proper labeling. Such precautions allow you to spend your time focusing on programming rather than injury treatment, accident investigation, claims follow-up, and reparative public relations.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about camp risk management issues.


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