Regardless of all the preemptive measures that any business takes to make its work environment safe, there will always be certain areas or conditions that are potentially hazardous and represent a risk to the safety and wellbeing of the people accessing them. In such situations, an adequate number of safety signs must be displayed prominently to not only alert the people about the potential hazard but also to inform them of the steps to take in case of any unfortunate event. Tragically, even after taking all precautions, as many as 5,250 people died in workplace accidents according to forbes, quoting the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for 2018. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics, more than 4.1 million workers suffer grave work-related injury or illness every year.
Different Types of Safety Signs
The ANSI Z535 series of standards recognized five different types of safety signs comprising three hazard communication signs and two informational signs:
Danger signs: These are used to indicate the presence of hazards that may cause serious injury or death in case people do not actively avoid them. These signs have white text on a red background and are to be used for places that are the most hazardous.
Warning signs: These signs are used to indicate the presence of a serious hazard that could result in injury or fatality. They have black text on an orange background and in terms of severity is one level less than danger signs.
Caution signs: These Safety Banners & Signs are used to indicate the presence of hazards that may result in moderate to a minor injury. A common example of a caution sign is “Slippery When Wet”.
Notice signs: These signs with white text on a blue background are used to convey information on safety practices in general without any particular indication of a hazard. For example, a “No Smoking” sign in a place with flammable liquids would be in the format of a caution sign; however, if there are no specific safety issues, it would be on a blue background.
Safety instruction signs: These signs carry information regarding safety issues and have white text on a green background. A common example is a sign indicating the presence of a first aid station.
While the above are classifications followed by OSHA and ANSI, organizations have the liberty to display any safety sign they want in addition to those mandated by law. Often signs with catchy slogs or clever phrases have more memorability and impact than the required safety signs.
While the use of many of the safety signs is mandated by applicable laws, you need to know that it is not enough to simply abide by the law by displaying the safety signs. You need to be careful that all the hazards have been properly identified and adequate safety signs are displayed appropriately and prominently to warn people of the hazard. You also need to monitor the signs on an ongoing basis so that they remain visible and relevant even after the layout in the facility has been modified and whether the signs are in a language that people of different nationalities can understand.