Everything You Need to Know About Safety Signs in the Workplace

Want to know about safety signs in the workplace – mandatory or not? This article offers everything you need to keep your business compliant.

Safety signs in the workplace are kind of a big deal. They’re not just there for show; they play a critical part in protecting employees and ensuring everyone follows the rules.

These signs speak volumes without uttering a word, guiding, warning, and informing workers and visitors alike. Well-placed signs can prevent accidents that could lead to serious injuries or even fatalities.

This article will give you invaluable insights to help you understand and implement safety signs in your workplace. You’ll learn about the diverse range of safety signs, each serving a unique purpose, from mandatory signs like hard hat areas to cautionary notices such as wet floor markers. 

We’ll guide you through best practices, offering knowledge on strategic placement and maintenance, ensuring your safety signs don’t just exist but effectively communicate and prevent hazards. You’ll also gain a better understanding of how effective signage impacts both safety and compliance.

Understanding Safety Signs in the Workplace

Safety signs play a pivotal role in workplaces of all kinds – their primary purpose is to prevent accidents and ensure employee well-being.

Beyond avoiding accidents, safety signs also play important legal and ethical roles in your company’s operations. They can help you comply with safety regulations and demonstrate a commitment to the health and safety of their employees. These signs can therefore be seen as a reflection of a company’s values and its dedication to creating a secure workplace.

Different Types of Safety Signs

Knowing the different types of signs and their meanings is vital for maintaining a safe environment. According to OSHA, safety signs fall into three primary classifications:

Danger Signs

They signify serious and immediate threats, like high voltage or toxic chemicals. A danger sign will have a combo of red, black, and white colors, with the word “DANGER” boldly displayed at the top. Sometimes, orange warning signs are used for less severe or immediate threats.

Caution Signs

These yellow-background signs with a black upper panel provide a heads-up for potential minor or moderate injuries. Their top panels prominently feature the word “CAUTION,” often accompanied by relevant graphics. Think of slippery floors or low headroom areas.

Safety Instruction Signs

These informational signs are your go-to for essential policies and procedures. They might detail hygiene practices or steps for operating and shutting down equipment. Look for a white sign with a green upper panel displaying white letters, with additional black lettering and graphics on the white background.

Other Important Safety Sign Categories

In addition to these three main types, there are several other categories to be aware of:

Special Considerations for Temporary Safety Needs

Lightweight safety tags can be used in temporary situations. These tags are especially handy in dynamic environments. They must comply with all color and design standards set by OSHA and consider additional standards set out by the American National Standards Institute, or ANSI.

Legal Requirements and Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is critical to helping companies maintain strict workplace safety in the United States.

OSHA sets the standards in the United States, ensuring safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. Here’s what you need to know:

OSHA’s guidelines cover everything from the design and use of safety signs to their placement in the workplace. These regulations are detailed in OSHA standards like 29 CFR 1910.145 for general industry use, and 29 CFR 1926.200 for the construction industry.

Non-compliance with OSHA standards can lead to penalties, fines, and legal repercussions. More importantly, it can put your workforce at risk. It’s essential to stay updated with OSHA’s changing guidelines and ensure your workplace adheres to these standards.

While OSHA governs U.S. standards, internationally, ISO 7010 is the go-to standard for safety signs, providing a universal set of safety symbols and pictograms designed to be understood across linguistic and cultural barriers.

ISO 7010 prescribes safety signs using pictograms that are easily recognizable worldwide. Essentially, this means that a worker from Italy can understand the safety signs in a factory in Japan without language being a barrier. 

ISO 7010 helps standardize safety signs across different countries and industries, reducing confusion and enhancing safety for international workers or multinational companies.

Aligning with OSHA regulations and ISO 7010 standards thus helps protect your team while building a greater trust and safety culture.

Best Practices for Implementing Safety Signs

To keep your workers safe, you must understand how to effectively implement safety signs in the workplace. Remember: it’s not just about slapping a sign here and there. It’s about strategic placement, clarity, and keeping things up-to-date. 

First and foremost, your safety signs must be seen to be effective. To help you ensure it’s seen, here are some key tips to help ensure that your signs stand out:

Ensuring Clarity and Consistency

A confusing sign is a useless sign, so here are some insights on how to keep things clear:

Regular Maintenance and Updates

Safety signs are not a ‘set and forget’ deal. They need attention, too. To maintain them properly, you should:

Designing Effective Safety Signs

Designing effective safety signs is important – craft a clear, concise message that speaks volumes without overwhelming potential readers.

Under OSHA standard 1910.145, safety signs are legally required to include specific elements to be compliant. Missing any of these elements could lead to citations during inspections. OSHA’s regulated elements for accident prevention signs are:

Signal Words & Color Codes:

  • Danger signs: “DANGER” in black text on a red field.
  • Caution signs: “CAUTION” in black letters on a yellow field.
  • Safety Instruction signs: Varied instructions with white text on a green field.

Language & Font:

  • The text should be concise, easily read, and in plain language.
  • Sans serif fonts are recommended for readability.


  • Signs should be placed as close as safely possible to their respective hazards, at eye level, and unobstructed.


  • While OSHA doesn’t specify sizes, signs should be large enough for the signal words to be readable from a minimum distance of five feet.

OSHA standards are the standards you must follow, but there are additional standards that can help improve the efficacy of your signs, including those set by ANSI. 

While ANSI standards are voluntary and not legally enforced, they are often considered the “gold standard” in safety practices. Incorporating ANSI standards can enhance the effectiveness of your safety signs:

ANSI Safety Symbols & Pictograms:

  • These symbols help identify hazards and are beneficial for quick and universal understanding.

ANSI Safety Sign Signal Words & Color Codes:

  • Warning signs: “WARNING” in black letters on an orange field.
  • Notice signs: “NOTICE” in white letters on a blue field.

Creating Better Safety Signs with SLAPS

The mnemonic device SLAPS can help remember the essential elements for effective safety signs:

  • Signal Words & Color Codes
  • Language & Font
  • ANSI Safety Symbols & Pictograms*
  • Placement
  • Size

While ANSI standards are not required by OSHA, implementing them into your design is considered best practice for improving its impact and effectiveness.

Matching Safety Signs with Common Hazards

Different industries have varying common hazards. For instance:

  • In construction, “DANGER” signs for fall prevention are prevalent due to the high risk of falls.
  • “CAUTION” signs are often used for electrical shock risks.
  • “SAFETY INSTRUCTION” signs might indicate proper lifting techniques or first aid locations.
  • “NOTICE” signs can designate restricted areas or communicate PPE recommendations.

Remember that while OSHA sets the mandatory baseline for safety signage, embracing ANSI standards can help elevate the effectiveness of your safety communication to keep your workplace safer and well-prepared for any legal scrutiny.

The Impact of Safety Signs on Workplace Safety and Compliance

Safety signs can have a huge impact on overall safety and compliance in your workplace and directly impact your team’s health and wellbeing.

How Effective Signage Prevents Accidents

Here’s how effective safety signs help prevent accidents:

Enhancing Organizational Compliance

Safety signs also play a big role in compliance:

Employee Training and Awareness

Safety signs are most effective when paired with employee training and awareness:

Understanding the Importance of Safety Signs

We hope by know you understand the broader role that safety signs play in the workplace, including their importance, types, design, and impact on workplace safety and compliance

Key Takeaways

Looking for more information on labor laws and compliance?

The Workyard blog offers practical tools such as incident report templates, which are essential for recording and addressing workplace incidents efficiently. These templates can help your company assess safety hazards and improve relevant measures, like safety sign implementation, based on the recorded incidents you may have.

We’ve also created an extensive range of articles covering both general U.S. labor laws and state-specific regulations

Workplace safety is an ongoing journey. Continuously educating yourself and your team, staying updated with the latest standards, and keeping your safety signs in top shape are all part of creating a broader culture of safety in your construction or field services company.

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