Help Us Redesign the NIOSH Pocket Guide

Posted on by Naomi Hudson, Dr.P.H, and Donna Van Bogaert, Ph.D.

The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018. The guide continues to be the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) most popular document. It provides descriptive information such as recommendations for exposure limits, protective clothing, and first aid measures for 677 chemicals commonly found in the work environment. Workers, employers, and occupational health professionals use the NPG to control workplace exposures to chemical hazards and as a reference in emergencies. Fire fighters, for example, use the NPG to prepare themselves for chemical exposures they might face during responses to emergency scenarios such as an explosion, fire, or chemical spill.

To celebrate the NPG’s 40 years, we’re reprinting the hard copy and updating all versions (web and app), adding new information such as skin exposure information and additional chemicals. We are also evaluating the guide’s information for the print version layout. The current printed NPG is a 424-page, 5.25-inch by 7.5-inch, pocket-sized book. We’ve developed two new layouts and two new sizes for the print version, and we would like feedback about these new designs from those of you who use the NPG. We would also like to know how you use the guide, what industry you work in, and why the print version is important to you. Your feedback will help us redesign the new anniversary edition.

Based on our research, we’ve made some assumptions about what features might be important to NPG users. Let us know if you agree or disagree with the statements below. Feel free to suggest new ideas or recommendations.

  1. The current size (3 x 7-inch) and layout of the NPG is important to keep.
  2. An 8 × 10-inch version of the book would be just as useful as the current version.
  3. The text size and placement of information in the current version is a good fit.
  4. Adding more color is helpful in following the information.
  5. Keeping the placement of information in a consistent format is important.
  6. The addition of new information (skin notations, additional chemicals) makes the guide more valuable.
  7. The printed version of the NPG is not my primary resource, but it is important for some uses.

Finally, we’d like your feedback on two new layouts for the guide. Below you will find images of a current NPG page layout along with two alternative layouts, Version 1 and Version 2. Please help us decide on the final design by telling us what you like and don’t like about each layout. Also, let us know what features or content you don’t see but would like us to add.

Current NPG layout



Alternative Version 1 NPG Page Layout 

Alternative Version 2 NPG Page Layout


Thanks for sharing your feedback. Watch for the NPG’s new look later this year!

Naomi Hudson, Dr.P.H., is a health scientist and coordinator of the NPG content update.

Donna Van Bogaert, Ph.D., is the Chief of the Information, Resources, and Dissemination Branch at NIOSH.

Posted on by Naomi Hudson, Dr.P.H, and Donna Van Bogaert, Ph.D.

77 comments on “Help Us Redesign the NIOSH Pocket Guide”

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    #1 I like the color format I don’t like the title.
    #2 I like the boxed set up. I don’t kike the category set.
    keep the sign posted in employee area, easy to read, not too wordy, simple. also able to keep a card in pocket or wallet .

    In my current job I use the guide in training and for emergency response mainly as a source of information about the chemicals in the guide. I work for state government as a hazardous waste regulator. The printed version of the guide is valuable to me in the event that I don’t have access to electronics for any of a number or reasons.

    I agree with statements 1, 4, 5, and 6.

    As previously stated I like the current format, however; if I had to pick an alternative layout, I prefer Version 2.

    For me Version 2 is the better fit. I am assuming that there will only be one chemical per page? The larger print will be a plus.

    I prefer the 2nd option. I am with a city Hazmat emergency response team and we use the NIOSH on every chemically related call.

    I use the online NPG as I don’t believe I have an updated print version but I do like having the print version available when I am out in the field doing IH work. I work in the Insurance Industry.

    I agree with 2, 4, 6 and I like the Version 2 Page layout. I feel it is easier to read vs. Version 1 where everything is bunched up. I would like a larger format instead of a bulkier book so an 8×10 version with maybe two chemicals to a page would be great!

    Version 2 has a better flow that separates the pertinent information out

    For sizes, a compact hardcopy portable version is always handy where a computer/tablet based version is also nice for the office. A version for Android/IOS that does not require being connected all the time would be convenient also.

    In my opinion Version 2 seems to facilitate quick acquisition of needed information. It doesn’t appear crowded and is organized well.

    I prefer the Alternate Version 2. I find it easier to find the information I need. I also like the larger page size versus the current 3 x 7.

    My preference is for the current format but if a change is to be made I find the second version to be easier to navigate.

    Version 2. The layout of information is more effective and provides better utilization of the space provided.

    I recommend that you add the GHS classifications and pictograms to reinforce the workplace hazard communication we use.

    1.The current size (3 x 7-inch) and layout of the NPG is important to keep.
    4.Adding more color is helpful in following the information.
    6.The addition of new information (skin notations, additional chemicals) makes the guide more valuable.
    I would like to see more odor threshold info added to help with respirator (APR) warning property info.
    I like the New version 2. Good grouping and I like the empty areas where there is no data available.
    Avoid the pictograms-keep it alpha-numeric

    1. My vote would be for Alternate #2, it appears easier to read and cleaner (better layout & color)
    2. If possible, it would be very convenient to add NFPA Diamond & HMIS information for each chemical (to avoid having to visit other sources)
    3. If possible, adding current ACGIH TLV’s (what most IH’s & organizations use) and AIHA Odor Thresholds (for odor complaints) would also be very convenient

    Larger book with more color is a plus.

    Version 2 of the page layout is the better looking option.

    Shawn Dillingham
    Technical Rescue Specialist
    First Call Consulting, LLC

    I like version 2 but the synonyms are not correct in this section. You have mercury listed as the chemical and manganese oxide, manganomanganic oxide, trimanganese tetraoxide, and trimanganese tetroxide listed as synonyms.

    I am not against increasing the size to a typical book dimension. I like the version 2 look and layout but again the bigger size would be nice. I utilize both electronic and print edition for my daily work but really like to have a book to review when I may have multiple screens open on my computer detailing information. It is especially helpful when in the field working off a laptop. The uses of color help direct the reader to different sections easier and could allow people to focus on exactly where they might need to go for information.

    The current version data distribution is better than others versions, but this version miss color.
    Informations about odor (characteristics, threshold, and limitations) and logPow should are presence. Synergistic and antagonistic effects would are good options.
    Acronyms and abbreviations could accompany a glossary.

    I agree with your assumptions. I prefer the layout of Version 2. The columns are too narrow in Version 1. Agree it would be helpful to include ACGIH TLVs but those are probably copyrighted. GHS classifications would be helpful as well.

    Regardless of format, please develop a free app for the NPG. The NAERG app is free. WebWiser app, which I use way more than any other resource, is free. Also adding LD50 values would be helpful. And too bad that ACGIH won’t allow NIOSH to publish the TLVs – that way all common exposure values are in one location. All that being said, I lean slightly toward version 2.

    Alt. Ver 2 would be my pick. Quick reference areas stand out better being at the bottom lime that.

    Agree with points 3 – 7
    pocket size book best format
    Emergency Information i.e. initial exposure management should be highlighted.

    1. The current size is not important to keep.
    2. An 8×10-inch version seems too big.
    3. I would prefer the text size of current version to be larger, fit is fine.
    4. Color is more helpful.
    5. Consistent placement of info is important.
    6. Additional info is useful.
    7. The printed version is my primary resource for training. Electronic version is primary resource in the field.
    Environmental Remediation Contractor / Emergency Response Contractor.
    Version 2 is the preferred. The delineated sections are nice.

    For the companies I’ve worked for, the NIOSH Pocket Guide is kept in a glove box or spill bag so the “pocket-size” isn’t necessary; although, a full 8″x11″ book would likely be too big to store easily. In most cases, we can use an app to get the information, but sometimes the employees are responding in an area that doesn’t have cell phone services or cell phones are prohibited, which is where the PG comes in.

    Our primary use of the PG is to aid in the selection of respiratory protection. The largest problem we’ve had is that the employees don’t use the tables in the front to look up the abbreviations as they should. Instead, they make assumptions, especially if they’re in a hurry.

    Of the two versions you have listed, I think version #1 allows you to find the section you are looking for faster/easier. However, I’m curious to know if the intent is to keep as may abbreviations, especially in the respiratory protection section.

    I work in hazardous waste compliance in State Government and use the ERG and NPG on my iPhone as this is the easiest way to stay current and to be able to access the information that I might need in the field. As for the paper version, I would go with option 2, as this layout seems better to me especially, as mentioned before, useful with the empty blocks indicating that no information is available.

    I would vote for Layout Option 2, it’s clean and better organized I believe. That said, I reference the online version weekly and rarely the print version. Online can be updated instantaneously and these days is readily accessible by many devices.

    Version 2 has a cleaner and detailed layout. There are a few items that could be improved. Under incompatibilities and reactivities, there are chemicals listed. Would the header be better if it says incompatible and Reactive Materials? Otherwise using the same terminology as found in the prior edition. You need to say what the incompatibilities are with the material. I would outline in bold the three sections on First Aid, respirator and PPE. When I train for HAZWOPER these sections are one of the first ones that need to be investigated after IDLH and exposures.

    The format of Version 2, is a better layout, in my opinion. I use primarily the print version and also give it out to student employees who are interested.

    I like version #2. Wish we had a section on recommended storage. Also, would like see in cases where there is no IDLH due to very high toxicity a descriptor saying no exposure is safe.

    I use paper copies in the field and for training.
    *Please include NIOSH 704 info. About 20 years ago a NIOSH employee told me that that was being considered! And/or GHS info and pictograms. Add odor thresholds.
    *Skin notation and additional chemicals are most welcomed. And, I like the addition of colors.
    *Version 2 layout seems more clearly organized.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment and for your work on this important project.

    I am a fire department responder.

    I like Version 2.

    I strongly agree with assumptions 1, 4, and 5.

    I would also encourage, once the format is selected the online guide look as close to the book as possible as far as the layout and colors.

    My role is EH&S within academia. I like version 2.

    Comments on assumptions provided in parentheses.

    The current size (3 x 7-inch) and layout of the NPG is important to keep. (somewhat agree, portability)
    An 8 × 10-inch version of the book would be just as useful as the current version. (no, too large)
    The text size and placement of information in the current version is a good fit. (its fine, just be sure the hard copy and app versions are identical layout /color scheme)
    Adding more color is helpful in following the information. (contrasting colors is of greater utility than simply adding more color)
    Keeping the placement of information in a consistent format is important. (yes, hard copy and app versions need to be identical)
    The addition of new information (skin notations, additional chemicals) makes the guide more valuable. (yes, additional chemicals are always welcomed)
    The printed version of the NPG is not my primary resource, but it is important for some uses. (I use both)

    The NIOSH Pocket Guide is very useful. I believe it would be much more useful if you were to add GHS information to these entries, since this is now required for SDSs. I suggest that you include: GHS Classifications, GHS Pictograms, GHS Signal Word. If there is additional room you might think about adding the GHS Hazard Statements. If you need more information about this, please let me know. Thank you for revising this valuable guide.

    I think alternative version #2 looks best.

    A larger book(let) would be quite helpful — I strongly agree with statements #2 and #6. I moderately agree with statements #4 and #7.

    Version 2 is easy to read and draws your eyes to the most relevant information. It is much easier to read than the current version, and mirrors the modern layout used in most SDS.

    If I purchase hand soap and the Safety Data Sheet displays 0 for Flammable; 0 for Corrosive and 0 for Health is it considered Hazardous Materials?

    If the Safety Dara Sheet does not list any hazardous properties, then the material is not considered hazardous. You may want to contact the manufacturer if you have additional questions.

    Although any size would work, the “‘different” size [not 8×10] does make the NPG instantly recognizable, which might be very helpful in an emergency. Items 3–6: agreed. Item 7: paper version–Yes important to keep. That works with no cell service; two people can read a page at once [helpful for instruction]; Employees can consult the paper version anytime, etc. Electronic version very handy, and easy to update. In doing workshops for industrial employees, teachers, nurses, maintenance people, etc., NPG is the number one reference I recommend. Sometimes it is all they can afford.
    Aside from the incorrect “chemical identifier” for Hg in the example, I like the Alt 1 layout under “Exposure” better. Otherwise, Alt 2 looks good. On both, I think the “Exposure” heading should really be “Health.”
    Thanks for a critically important and useful resource!

    I like Alternate Version 2, as it is easier to read.
    A hard copy is important to me because I use it for emergent issues, and don’t always have access to a computer. The size of the book is handy for my needs, but I would like the larger format, since it could have larger type.

    I would like to see NFPA 704 “hazard diamond” information on the page. I prefer it be shown as the familiar diamond shape, with colors and numbers, but three numbers such as “1-3-0” would do at a minimum.
    Reading the information in the NPG can be technically dense for some readers. Having the hazard diamond as part of the information would be both reassuring and useful.

    I like Alternate 1. The layout facilitates easy recognition of all criteria with good differentiation. The 7.5 X 8.25 size seems a bit odd. I think a standard 8X10 size with space for user comments – either hand-written if a hard copy or typed in if electronic – would be very useful (if electronic, provide method of transferring notes between versions) . Just provide a unique backing to easily differentiate from other 8X10 hard copy references.

    Prefer alternate 2. Not sure that SY, ER, TO needed in this version as the words are written out and abbreviations not referenced. Color is useful. Consistent format is essential.

    If the larger format is selected, consider comments from John Kelly as very important. It would allow users to add (and share within a network) notes about experience, other OELs, needed pictograms and direct-reading exposure measurements for short-duration events.

    Like #2: it is smaller page size than #1. Suggestions for #2: Would like to see exposure limits in larger box & Cancer designation in a smaller box. I like the addition of Acute box.

    Formatting and table structuring is ideal in Alternative Version 2 NPG Page Layout. Thank you for everyone’s diligent efforts in getting this resource updated.

    Thank you for your comment. The next version of the NIOSH Pocket Guide should be available early next year.

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Page last reviewed: January 17, 2018
Page last updated: January 17, 2018