Guide to Safety Signs and Symbols in the Workplace

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Guide to Safety Signs and Symbols in the Workplace

safety signs and symbols

Safety signs and symbols are an essential aspect of workplace safety. They provide critical information to employees and visitors, alerting them to potential hazards and guiding them toward safe practices. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of safety signs and symbols in the workplace, the different types of signs and symbols, and how to effectively implement them.

What are safety signs and symbols?

Safety signs and symbols are graphical representations used to communicate specific messages related to safety and health. They are designed to prevent accidents, injuries, and illness in workplaces, public spaces, and other environments. These signs and symbols are universally recognized and conform to certain standards to ensure their effectiveness.

Importance of Safety Signs in the Workplace

Safety signs and symbols are used to communicate important information about potential hazards and safe practices. They are designed to be easily recognizable and understood, even by those who may not speak the language or have limited literacy skills. Safety signs can help prevent accidents and injuries by alerting employees and visitors to potential hazards and guiding them toward safe practices.

In many countries, safety signs and symbols are required by law in workplaces. These laws are in place to protect employees and visitors from potential hazards and to ensure that workplaces are safe. Failure to comply with these laws can result in fines and legal action.

Implementing safety signs and symbols in the workplace can have many benefits. They can help prevent accidents and injuries, reduce the risk of liability, and improve overall safety culture. Safety signs can also help improve communication and reduce confusion, leading to a more efficient and productive workplace.

Types of Safety Signs and Symbols

types of safety signs

Safety signs and symbols are classified into various types based on their function and the kind of information they provide. Here are the main types:

Prohibition Signs

These signs indicate actions that are not allowed for safety reasons, such as “No Smoking” or “Do Not Enter”. They are typically circular with a red border, a diagonal red line, and a black symbol on a white background.

Warning Signs

These signs warn of potential hazards in the area, like “High Voltage” or “Slippery When Wet”. They are usually triangular with a yellow or amber background and a black border and symbol.

Mandatory Signs

These signs indicate actions that must be taken to maintain safety, for example, “Wear Protective Equipment” or “Hard Hats Required”. They are often circular with a blue background and a white symbol.

Emergency Escape and First-Aid Signs

These signs show the locations of emergency exits, escape routes, and first-aid equipment. They are typically rectangular or square with a green background and a white symbol.

Fire Safety Signs

These signs indicate the location of fire-fighting equipment and fire exits. They are usually rectangular or square with a red background and white symbol.

Hazard Signs

These signs warn of specific hazards such as toxic materials, radiation, or explosive materials. They are typically diamond-shaped with a white background, black border and symbol, and specific colors (red, yellow, blue, or green) in the upper half depending on the type of hazard.

Standards for Safety Signs and Symbols

Standards for safety signs and symbols are set by various national and international organizations to ensure consistency and universal understanding. Here are a few key standards:

1. ISO 7010: International Standard

  • Created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 7010 sets the international standard for safety signs to ensure they are recognizable and understood universally, regardless of language or culture.

2. ANSI Z535 Series: U.S. Standard

  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z535 series of standards covers the design, application, and use of safety signs, colors, and symbols in the United States. It was designed to be compatible with the ISO 7010 standard.

3. BS 5499: UK Standard

  • The British Standards Institute (BSI) maintains the BS 5499 series, covering the design principles for safety signs and symbols, including fire safety signs. It is largely compatible with ISO 7010.

4. AS 1319-1994: Australian Standard

  • The Australian Standard AS 1319-1994 outlines specifications for safety signs intended for use in the occupational environment to regulate and control safety-related behavior, to warn of hazards, and to provide emergency information including fire protection information.

These standards aim to provide clear, concise, and effective communication of safety information. They often include specifications for sign design, including color, shape, size, and the use of pictograms versus text.

20 Common Safety Symbols, Symbols, and Their Meanings

1. Prohibition Signs

prohibition signs

Prohibition signs are a type of safety sign used to indicate that a specific action or behavior is not allowed. They are designed to prevent unsafe practices that could lead to accidents or health risks in a particular area.

These signs are typically circular with a red border, a red diagonal line across, a white background, and a black pictogram. The pictogram represents the activity that is prohibited. examples of prohibition signs include “No Smoking”, “No Entry”, “Do Not Touch”, “No Parking” etc.

2. Warning Signs

warning signs

Warning signs are used to highlight potential hazards or dangerous conditions in a certain area that may not be immediately apparent. Their purpose is to alert people to a possible risk so they can take precautions to avoid or minimize harm.

These signs are typically triangular, with a yellow or amber background, a black border, and a black pictogram symbolizing the potential hazard. examples of warning signs include: “High Voltage”, “Slippery Surface”, “Falling Objects”, “Flammable Material”, etc.

3. Mandatory Signs

mandatory signs

Mandatory signs, also known as instruction or regulatory signs, are used to indicate actions that must be taken to maintain safety. They communicate behaviors or actions that are required in a certain area to protect health and safety.

These signs are typically circular with a blue background, a white border, and a white pictogram indicating the action to be taken. examples of mandatory signs include “Wear Safety Goggles”, “Wear Hard Hat”, “Use Handrail”, “Wash Hands”, etc.

4. Emergency Signs

emergency signs

Emergency signs are used to indicate the locations of, or directions to, emergency-related facilities like exits, first-aid kits, and firefighting equipment. These signs are critical for guiding people safely out of a building in case of an emergency.

Typically, emergency signs are rectangular or square and feature a green background with white pictograms or text. examples of emergency signs include Emergency Exit, Fire Extinguisher, First Aid Kit, Emergency Assembly Point, etc.

5. Flammable Signs

flammable signs

Flammable signs are a type of warning sign used to indicate the presence of substances that can easily ignite and cause a fire. They are meant to caution people about potential fire hazards so that appropriate safety measures can be taken.

Typically, these signs are diamond-shaped with a white background, a red border, and a black pictogram. The pictogram is usually a flame. examples of flammable signs include Flammable Liquids, Flammable Solids, Flammable Gases, etc.

6. Explosive Signs

explosive signs

Explosive signs are a type of warning sign used to indicate the presence of materials or substances that can explode under certain conditions. They aim to caution people about potential explosion hazards so that appropriate safety measures can be taken.

Typically, these signs are diamond-shaped with an orange background and a black pictogram. The pictogram usually depicts an explosion (a cloud with lines radiating outwards). examples of explosive signs include: Explosive Material and Explosive Atmosphere

7. Fire Extinguisher Signs

fire extinguisher signs

Fire extinguisher signs are a type of safety sign used to indicate the location of fire extinguishers in a building. They help ensure that in the event of a fire, individuals can quickly find the necessary equipment to respond to the situation.

These signs typically feature a white pictogram of a fire extinguisher on a red background. The pictogram usually shows a simplified, recognizable image of a fire extinguisher.

There are also specific signs to indicate the type of fire extinguisher and what kind of fire it should be used on, such as Water Fire Extinguisher, CO2 Fire Extinguisher, Foam Fire Extinguisher, and Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher.

8. Biohazard Signs

biohazard signs

Biohazard signs are a type of warning sign used to signify the presence of substances that pose a threat to health, such as biological waste or infectious diseases. They are intended to alert individuals so they can take necessary precautions to avoid exposure.

These signs typically feature a black biohazard symbol — three interlocked circles — on a yellow background. The biohazard sign is used in a variety of contexts, including Medical Waste, Laboratories, Hospitals, and Industrial.

9. High Voltage Signs

high voltage signs

High voltage signs are a type of warning sign used to denote the presence of high-voltage electrical equipment or installations. They are intended to alert individuals to the potential risk of electrical shock, so they can exercise caution and avoid dangerous situations.

These signs typically feature a black lightning bolt symbol or the term “High Voltage” on a yellow or orange background. The color scheme and symbol used are intended to grab attention and convey the seriousness of the potential hazard.

High voltage signs are commonly used in a variety of settings, including Electrical Substations, Construction Sites, and Industrial Settings.

10. Radioactive Signs

radioactive signs

Radioactive signs are a type of warning sign used to indicate the presence of radioactive materials or ionizing radiation. The purpose of these signs is to alert individuals to the potential risk so they can take necessary safety measures to avoid dangerous exposure.

These signs typically feature the universal radiation symbol — a black or magenta propeller-like image on a yellow background. The symbol consists of three black blades on a yellow field, each blade pointing to the center. Examples of where radioactive signs may be used include Nuclear Power Plants, Medical Facilities, Research Laboratories, and Industrial Settings.

11. Toxic/Poison Signs

toxic signs

Toxic or poison signs are a type of warning sign used to indicate the presence of substances that are harmful or lethal if swallowed, inhaled, or come into contact with skin and mucous membranes. They aim to alert individuals to the potential risk so that they can take necessary safety measures.

These signs typically feature a skull and crossbones symbol on a yellow or white background. The skull and crossbones are a universally recognized symbol for poison. examples of where toxic or poison signs might be used include Chemical Storage Areas, Laboratories, and Industrial Settings.

12. Emergency Exit Signs

Emergency exit signs are a type of safety sign used to indicate the location of the nearest exit in the event of a fire or other emergency. They are designed to direct occupants to the quickest and safest way out of a building.

These signs typically feature a pictogram of a person moving towards a door, depicted in white on a green background. Some signs may also include an arrow indicating the direction of the exit. Emergency exit signs are commonly used in a variety of settings, including Offices, Public Spaces Residential Buildings, etc.

13. First Aid Signs

first aid signs

First Aid signs are a type of safety sign used to indicate the location of first aid equipment or facilities. They are designed to direct individuals to the resources they need to provide initial care in the event of a minor injury or health issue.

These signs typically feature a white cross on a green background, which is internationally recognized as a symbol for first aid. Examples of first aid signs include First Aid Station, First Aid Kit, Automated External Defibrillator (AED), Eyewash Station, etc.

14. Slippery Surface Signs

Slippery surface signs are a type of warning sign used to indicate areas where the floor or ground may be slick and pose a slipping hazard. They are intended to alert individuals to the potential risk so they can exercise caution to prevent slips and falls.

These signs typically feature a pictogram of a person slipping, often depicted in black on a yellow background. The symbol usually shows a stylized figure with one foot in the air, indicating a slip.

Slippery surface signs are commonly used in a variety of settings, including Public Spaces, Workplaces and Outdoor Areas, etc.

15. Forklift Operating Area Signs

forklift operating area signs

Forklift operating area signs are a type of warning sign used in industrial and warehouse settings to indicate areas where forklifts are in operation. They are designed to alert employees, visitors, and other forklift operators of the potential hazard, so they can act safely and prevent accidents.

These signs typically feature a pictogram or symbol of a forklift, often depicted in black on a yellow background. Some signs might also include text like “Caution: Forklift Traffic” or “Warning: Forklift Operating Area.” The use of these signs is crucial in areas such as Warehouses, Factories, and Construction Sites.

16. Under Construction Signs

under construction signs

Under construction signs are a type of warning sign used to inform people that a certain area is currently undergoing construction work. They are designed to alert pedestrians and drivers to potential hazards such as loose debris, heavy machinery, and detours, so they can exercise caution.

These signs often feature a pictogram or symbol related to construction, such as a worker with a hard hat or a piece of heavy machinery, often depicted in black on a yellow or orange background. The text “Under Construction” or “Construction Zone” is usually included. Under construction signs are commonly used in Construction Sites, Road Works Areas, and Buildings Under Renovation.

 17. Radiation Hazard Signs

Radiation hazard signs are a type of warning sign used to indicate the presence of ionizing radiation, which can be harmful to health. These signs are designed to alert individuals to the potential risk so they can take necessary safety measures.

Radiation hazard signs typically feature the international radiation symbol, also known as the trefoil, in black or magenta on a yellow background. The symbol consists of three black or magenta blades, each pointing to the center. Some signs may also include text such as “Caution: Radiation” or “Danger: Radioactive Materials.”

You’ll commonly find radiation hazard signs in places like Nuclear Power Plants, Research Laboratories.

18. Hot Surface Warning Signs

Hot surface warning signs are a type of safety sign used to indicate the presence of surfaces that are hot enough to cause burns upon contact. They are designed to alert individuals to the potential risk so they can avoid touching hot surfaces and prevent injuries.

These signs typically feature a pictogram of a hand touching a wavy, heated surface, often depicted in black or white on a yellow or orange background. The text “Caution: Hot Surface” or “Danger: Hot Surface” is usually included. Hot surface warning signs are commonly used in Industrial Settings, Kitchens, and Construction Sites.

19. Hazardous Area Signs

Hazardous area signs are a type of safety sign used to mark areas that contain potential risks to health, safety, or the environment. These signs are designed to alert individuals to the potential hazards so they can take appropriate precautions or avoid the area entirely.

Hazardous area signs are commonly used in Industrial and Manufacturing Sites, Construction Sites, Chemical Storage, and Laboratories.

 20. PPE Signs

ppe signs

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) signs are a type of safety sign used to inform individuals that they must use specific protective equipment in the area to minimize exposure to hazards. They are designed to remind and alert individuals to wear the necessary PPE to prevent workplace injuries.

These signs typically feature a pictogram of the required PPE, such as a hard hat, safety glasses, ear protection, or gloves, often depicted in blue or black on a white background. Some signs might also include text like “Safety Glasses Required in This Area” or “Hard Hats Must Be Worn.”

PPE signs are essential in many different environments, including Construction Sites, Factories, Laboratories, and Healthcare Facilities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, safety signs and symbols are an essential aspect of workplace safety. They provide critical information to employees and visitors, alerting them to potential hazards and guiding them toward safe practices. By understanding the importance of safety signs and symbols, the different types of signs and symbols, and common safety signs uses, workplaces can improve overall safety culture and reduce the risk of accidents and injuries.

Arlen Wang

Arlen Wang

Arlen wang is the author of Anbu safety, he is the manager and co-founder of the Anbu Safety network. He has been in anbu safety company since 2008, with a working knowledge of personal protective equipment, and several unique skills related to the PPE industry.

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