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Safety Signs in The Workplace: A Definitive Guide

workplace safety signs

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Imagine the chaos and confusion in a workplace where employees are unaware of potential hazards due to the absence of clear safety signs. Accidents and injuries become inevitable, leading to lost productivity and increased medical costs.


One of the most effective tools in promoting safety is the use of safety signs. These signs provide clear and immediate communication that helps prevent injuries and save lives. 


We will provide the various types of safety signs, the meaning of color-coded signs, their specific functions, and the best practices for their use in this guide. 


Stay glued!


Types of Safety Signs

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are three primary categories for safety signs, which are as follows: 


1: Safety instruction signs:

These signs provide information to employees regarding policies and procedures. They can be used to offer guidelines on proper hygiene or how to operate and shut down equipment. These signs which are intended for instruction must have a white background color and green panel with white letters. Any letter used on the white background should be white. 


2: Caution signs:

This indicates the chance of a mild to moderate hazard. Their layout, borders, and upper panel are all black against a yellow background. Occasionally accompanied with an image, the word CAUTION appears in the upper panel. 


3: Danger signs:

This denotes a dangerous and immediate threat that, if it is not avoided, will result in serious damage or death. They will have the word DANGER across the top in a combination of red, black, and white. Warning signs in the color orange can be used to alert people to a less serious or immediate threat.


Lightweight safety tags can be used in place of signs in temporary applications. They have to adhere to all OSHA and American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-specified color and design guidelines.


We also need to be aware of a few additional, more specific types of safety signs which include:


4: Fire safety signs:

These will feature white text and graphics against a bright red background. They are simple to identify and label fire extinguishers, hoses, and other fire suppression devices.


5: Non-hazard signs:

These include safety area directional signs and traffic signs.


6: General safety signs:

These can include road safety signs, construction safety signs, no smoking signs, and electrical signs that warn against danger.


Admittance and no trespassing signs specify who is permitted to enter a defined location. 


Meaning of Color-Coded Safety Signs 

Colors are vital for rapidly and efficiently conveying safety and road work sign information. The American National Guidelines Institute and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration created guidelines for assigning meaning to specific colors. This ensures that signage is consistent across industries and that company messaging is conveyed concisely. 


1: Red: The color red is used on warning signs and stop signs. It implies a high risk of danger, which could lead to harm or death. To maximize visibility, fire suppression equipment and emergency stops or alarms are colored red.


2: Orange: Moderate risks of hazard, such as those caused by equipment or sharp edges, should be identified with orange warning signs. Road construction signs, under construction signs, and other traffic safety signs are printed against an orange background.


3: Yellow: Yellow-and-black caution signs indicate situations requiring caution. This color combination may be used on no-trespassing signs intended to protect individuals from potential harm. In addition to trespassing warnings, yellow caution signs should be used to designate hazardous and combustible material storage containers, as well as doorway obstacles.


4: Green: Green safety signs indicate first aid and safety tools.


5: Blue: A blue background safety sign indicates that a piece of equipment is being repaired and should not be activated or transferred.


6: Purple: Purple is allocated for safety signs that indicate radioactive materials and hazards. These are often on a yellow background with a graphic that depicts the hazard.


7: Fluorescent Orange or orange-red: A biological danger is represented by fluorescent orange or orange-red letters with contrasting colors. 


What Purposes Do Safety Signs Serve?

Safety signs have different  applications in the workplace, providing functions such as:


1: General Information: General information signs are an effective instrument for conveying information or instructions, as well as sharing workplace safety quotes. Instructional signs provide safety notices for workers on a specific machine or operating line, while housekeeping signs remind workers to maintain correct cleanliness and hygiene. 


2: Direction: Some workplace signs are intended to indicate specific places or traffic patterns. This includes signage for smoking areas, handwashing stations, and room names. Exit and barricade signs indicate where you can and cannot go. This ensures workplace safety by directing people and items to the appropriate locations.


3: Warn of Potential Dangers: Some signs are placed to indicate an increased risk of hazard. These should always be color-coded based on the amount of danger and written such that a possible hazard is easily identified. Funny safety signs are not appropriate here. Use plain language and positive, action-oriented words to convey your message swiftly and clearly. 


Where to Place Safety Signs

This section of this guide will help an organization to know the best place where workers will easily see and recognize the safety signs. 

Having the appropriate signs put in the suitable areas improves their effectiveness and helps to keep staff, customers, and visitors safe. The easiest way to determine whether you are meeting sign placement requirements is to consult the applicable local and OSHA rules. 


While more signs may be required at your workplace depending on your operating system, you may begin by reviewing existing signage to see if it is placed at the right place.  


The following helpful tips will ensure that safety signs are properly placed in the workplace.

  • No sign should disrupt the positioning or message of another sign
  • It should also be visible from a certain minimum distance
  • All evacuation routes are indicated with the proper evacuation signage
  • Exits from certain rooms and buildings are designated with red and white exit signs
  • Food preparation areas exhibit cleanliness and food safety signs.
  • Hazardous materials are boldly labeled with the appropriate HAZMAT designation
  • All equipment and general hazards are properly designated with warehouse safety signs
  • All restrooms are identified with restroom sign 


Safety signs are a cornerstone of workplace safety. Their role in hazard communication and accident prevention cannot be overstated. By following the recommendations provided in this guide, employers can ensure that their safety signage is both compliant and effective. 


This commitment to robust safety practices not only protects employees but also promotes a culture of vigilance and care, advancing the overall safety and efficiency of the workplace.


To wrap up this guide, let’s look at some frequently asked questions and their respective answers when it comes to safety signs in the workplace.



1: Where should safety signs be placed?

Safety signs should be positioned where the information is most needed. For example near hazards, exits, and safety equipment. It should be placed at eye level or in a location where they are easily seen by employees and visitors. It should also be visible and legible.

2: Are there legal requirements for safety signs in the workplace?

Yes. Many countries have regulations and standards (such as OSHA in the US, HSE in the UK, and ISO standards) that mandate the use of safety signs to ensure workplace safety. Employers are required to comply with these regulations to avoid penalties and ensure a safe working environment.

3: How often should safety signs be inspected or replaced?

Safety signs should be regularly inspected to ensure they are in good condition, clearly visible and up-to-date with current regulations and standards. Replace any signs that are damaged, faded, or no longer relevant.

4: Can safety signs be customized?

Yes, while there are standard signs, employers can customize safety signs to address specific hazards or instructions unique to their workplace, as long as the customized signs meet regulatory standards and are easily understandable.

5: What is the role of employees regarding safety signs?

Employees should be aware of and understand the safety signs in their workplace. They should follow the instructions and warnings provided by the signs and report any damaged or missing signs to their supervisor.

6: How can employers ensure that employees understand safety signs?

Employers can conduct regular training sessions on workplace safety and the meaning of various signs. Include information about safety signs in onboarding materials and use multilingual signs if necessary to accommodate non-native speakers.


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