Reactivity Series

Last updated: June 10, 2017

What Does Reactivity Series Mean?

The reactivity series is a series of metal elements, and sometimes carbon and hydrogen, that is arranged according to their reactivity. A reactivity series is typically a vertically presented model with the most-reactive element placed at the top of the series and the least-reactive element placed at the bottom.

Safeopedia Explains Reactivity Series

Worker recognition of the potential chemical reactivity of a substance and the level of hazard associated is an important aspect of workplace safety. Highly reactive substances may present a significant hazard to workers due to the opportunity for potentially dangerous reactions to occur if the substance is not handled with proper precautions.

The reactivity series is an empirically constructed series—the more reactive a metal is, the greater its tendency to lose electrons and form positive ions. Because the reactivity of an element varies depending on the substance it is reacting to, elements ranked in the series are arranged according to their reactions to a common substance. Elements within the reactivity series are typically ranked based on their reaction to water or a dilute acid. The most reactive element in a standard series is potassium, which reacts violently with water; the least reactive is gold, which does not react at all with dilute acids.

OSHA and other occupational health and safety agencies recognize chemical substance reactivity as a major workplace hazard. The reactivity series acts as a useful summary of information about the potential reactivity of metals, but it does not provide specific information about workplace safety. The Global Harmonized System for communicating chemical safety standards (which the EU, Canada, and OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard comply with) mandates that specific information about a chemical substance’s reactivity be provided on all Safety Data Sheets (SDS). SDSs must be supplied by manufacturers, distributors, and importers to all recipients of a chemical substance.


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