Signs: What you need to know


The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the form and content of many safety signs and tags. The accident prevention signs and tags regulation tells employers what colors, shapes, and wording to use to provide safety information and warnings to employees. In addition, the regulation specifically requires that employees be informed so that they can recognize the different kinds of signs and tags and take action based on the messages they contain.

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Employers must put up signs or symbols to indicate and define specific hazards in work areas where failure to designate them as hazardous areas may cause property damage or lead to accidental injury to workers or the public.

29 CFR 1910.145

The word “sign” refers to a surface prepared for the warning or safety instructions to industrial workers or anyone else who may be exposed to hazards. Excluded from this definition are news releases, safety posters, and bulletins used for employee education. There are four primary types of signs:

  • Danger
  • Caution
  • Safety instruction
  • Biological hazard warning

Sign wording. The wording of any sign should be easily read and concise. The sign should contain sufficient information to be easily understood. The wording should make a positive, rather than negative, suggestion and should be factually accurate.

Danger. Danger signs indicate immediate danger and that special precautions are necessary. The colors red, black, and white must be those of opaque glossy samples as specified in Table 1 of Fundamental Specification of Safety Colors for CIE Standard Source “C,” American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Z53.1-1967, and “Specification of the Safety Colors for CIE Illuminate C and the CIE 1931, 2° ...

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