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No. The Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200, requires that all red borders printed on the label have a symbol printed inside it. OSHA has said that if it allowed the use of blank red borders, workers may be confused about what they mean and concerned that some information is missing. OSHA has determined that prohibiting the use of blank red borders on labels is necessary to provide the maximum recognition and impact of warning labels and to ensure that users do not get desensitized to the warnings placed on labels.
According to a December 20, 2012, OSHA letter of interpretation:
“Question 1: We purchase preprinted labels that have three empty frames with red borders so that we may place appropriate pictograms on them when making our product labels. We understand that OSHA does not allow a blank red frame on the final product label. If our product requires only one or two pictograms, may we simply black-out the unused frame(s)? Also, is it acceptable to add ‘See Adjacent Pictograms’ within the blacked-out area of the label?”
“Response: While OSHA is not opposed to the use of preprinted stock, the HCS 2012 does not allow the use of blank red frames on labels. In 29 CFR 1910.1200, Appendix C, Allocation of Label Elements (Mandatory), C.2.3.1 states, ‘A square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol is not a pictogram and is not permitted on the label.’ The black-out option you suggested, however, is compliant with the requirements of the HCS 2012 because it is not a ‘square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol.’
Be advised that if a blank red frame is not fully covered and filled in, the label would not be in compliance. Also, please note that downstream customers may inquire whether the blacking-out was done deliberately by the manufacturer or whether the label has been defaced (see 29 CFR 1910.1200(b)(3)(i), (b)(4)(i) and (f)(9)). However, adding the words, ‘See Adjacent Pictogram(s)’ within the blacked-out area may help to reduce any potential concerns about whether a blackened frame is a defaced label.”
Also, according to a December 23, 2014, OSHA letter of interpretation:
“Scenario: Your company has designed and purchased label stock that includes four pre-printed, empty red frames to accommodate the required GHS pictograms. For products where only a portion of the empty red frames are filled with pictograms, the unused frames on the label are currently being completely covered (blacked-out) with large black diamonds, as suggested in OSHA’s December 20, 2012, letter of interpretation ... However, you ask to use an alternate method.”
“Question: Is it acceptable to print ‘Intentionally Blank,’ ‘No GHS Pictogram,’ or other similarly phrased text in black lettering inside of an empty red frame to indicate that no additional hazards are associated with a chemical?
“Response: No. The HCS does not allow the use of blank red frames on labels. OSHA also does not permit words, the letter “X,” or other means to indicate that the red frame has been intentionally left blank. In 29 CFR 1910.1200, Appendix C, Allocation of Label Elements (Mandatory), C.2.3.1 states, ‘A square red frame set at a point without a hazard symbol is not a pictogram and is not permitted on the label.’ As OSHA explained in the preamble to the final rule, blank red frames that are marked to indicate that they have been intentionally left blank contribute to clutter on the label and distract from the primary message. 77 Fed. Reg. 17574, 17700 (Mar. 26, 2012).
The blacked-out option that your company is currently using is compliant with the requirements of the HCS 2012. Please be advised that if a blank red frame is not fully covered and filled in, the label would not be in compliance.”