Hazardous Materials and the Danger

Industries use many materials such as raw materials, fuels and consumables. Raw materials are the materials which are used for the production of the final product. They are part of the finished product manufactured. Consumables are the materials which are essential in the manufacturing process but do not become part of the finished products like oils and lubricants. Fuels are essential for processes for heating or burning operations. Materials which are threat to human or to the assets are termed as hazardous materials. These materials are health hazard or physical hazard. The effect may be slow or spontaneous depending on the nature of the hazardous materials. Hazardous materials can enter the body during inhalation through breathing, by absorption through skin or eyes or by ingestion such as swallowing.  Hazardous materials can be solid, liquid or gases. Some of the industrial activities cannot be carried without the explosives, petrol, dangerous gases. Explosives are essential for blasting operations in the mines. They are required for breaking big boulders into small size pieces which are then crushed by crushers and ground to fine powder in the mills for preparation of raw materials. Cement industry, steel industry and many other industries use explosives in the mines regularly in the mining operations.


There are number of reports every day of some accidents in the industry due to explosions, spillage of materials on the ground or leakage of some gases from the storage containers or from the processes. Leakage of gases in chemical plants is reported very frequently. Recent accident on 12th August, 2015 in Rui Hai warehouse in the northern port city Tianjin, China is an example of one of the worst blasts in the warehouse killing 44 people on the spot with casualties reaching to 165 deaths. The warehouse was used for storing the toxic materials.

Harmful gases are threat to human life by creating pollution in the big cities that has created health problems for the people living in such cities. To control the pollution due to gases from the vehicles, government of China has recently introduced a system to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by permitting the cars with even number on one day and cars with odd numbers on other day. The objective is to reduce number cars plying on the roads so that gas emission on the road is low. Government of Delhi in India has also planned the plying of cars on Delhi roads on the same principle to bring down the level of gas pollution in the city.


Chemicals considered as health hazard or physical hazard include the following:

  • Chemicals, which are toxic, irritants, corrosives, neurotoxins and potential agents damaging the eyes, skin and lungs. People affected by them develop skin problems, asthma and poor vision.
  • Combustible liquids, gases, explosives, flammable liquids, flammable solids etc. are chemicals in this category.
  • Chemicals producing or releasing dusts, gases, fumes, and smoke are the ones which affect the humans during handling and storage.

It is important that hazardous materials are handled, stored and transported very safely following the safety regulations brought out by the government and regulatory authorities. Color Coding of labels and placards should be used for safety. The color codes for different types of materials are given in the Table below:

Table: Color codes for different type of hazardous materials


Type of hazardous materials Color code for labels and placards
Explosive Orange
Flammable gas and liquid Red
Poison White
Corrosive Black/white
Oxidizer Yellow
Non-flammable gas Green
Radio active Yellow / white

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