Communicating occupational hazards through colour

Pharmaceutical products are designed to have a specific effect in the human body. While this is precisely the intention in a patient with a known condition, these effects are not desirable in the employees who handle these pharmaceutical products as part of their everyday job.

Recognising the need for a clear and accessible hazard communication programme, specifically as it applies to the products presented in our facilities, the Sharp Environmental Health and Safety team collaborated to develop a system to communicate these known health hazards to our colleagues.

This employee-driven initiative resulted in what is called the Occupational Exposure Band (OEB) system. The OEB banding is a language-independent, colour-coding scheme which simply and effectively communicates the relative severity of pharmaceutical products in the workplace.

All pharmaceutical products handled by Sharp are subject to our Product Safety and Quality Risk Assessment (PSQRA) process and are each assigned to one of five colour bands based on the hazard that they present, such as physical form, occupational exposure limits, hazard classification, etc. The designated colour-coded hazard level is clearly displayed, along with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements, at the entry point into each production room to ensure our associates are aware of the hazard associated with what that they will be handling in that particular room. Inside the room, a master OEB poster is on display as a further reference for hazard information. 

Many of Sharp’s customers will visit the packaging suite to observe their product being packaged. The OEB system also informs visitors of the necessary gowning/PPE requirement to safely visit a packaging suite.


This OEB system – which was developed internally by the EHS team at Allentown and Conshohocken – demonstrates a proactive management of safety and is an example of the very best of our Values of Ingenuity and Energy. The simplicity and accessibility of the visual scheme means it can be shared and implemented at each Sharp location in the US, UK and Europe.