ANSI Compliant Signs and Labels

Appropriate Sign Headers

There are very specific rules that govern the use of headers on safety signs and labels. This flow chart will give you a general idea of when each kind is to be used. For more specific direction, refer to the American National Standard for Environmental and Facility Safety Signs (ANSI Z535.2-2007)

Choose the Appropriate ANSI Header

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Is the situation hazardous or are there hazardous materials?
Will the sign display general safety instruction or safety equipment location?
Is personal injury a credible possibility?
Is death or serious injury a credible possibility?
How likely is an accident?
In an accident, how likely is death or serious injury?
Safety
Notice
Caution
Warning
Danger

ANSI specifies the sign and label headers for five hazard classifications: DANGER, WARNING, CAUTION, NOTICE, and general safety. OSHA also requires biological hazards to be specifically labeled. These headers are generally referred to as the “signal word.” Each signal word is used for a specific hazard level. The safety alert symbol (an exclamation mark within an equilateral triangle) must also be included if there is a risk of personal injury.
Contents

DANGER

DangerDANGER indicates an immediate hazard which, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. DANGER should be limited to the most extreme situations and signify that special precautions are necessary. The header is printed in white letters on a red background and is always preceded by the safety alert symbol.

OSHA previously included an alternate header design which featured the word DANGER within a red oval on a black background. This header has been eliminated by ANSI. Existing signs and labels already in use which feature this older header style may continue to be used. However, OSHA states that there is to be no variation in the type of design of signs posted to warn of specific dangers, warnings, and radiation hazards. If a facility is going to update their DANGER signs, they should do so universally to avoid an OSHA violation.

WARNING

WarningWARNING indicates a hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury. The signal word WARNING is written in black on an orange background and must be preceded by the safety alert symbol.

OSHA previously included an alternate header design which featured the word WARNING within a black hexagonal shape on an orange background. This header has been eliminated by ANSI. Existing signs and labels already in use which feature this older header style may continue to be used. However, OSHA states that there is to be no variation in the type of design of signs posted to warn of specific dangers, warnings, and radiation hazards. If a facility is going to update their WARNING signs, they should do so universally to avoid an OSHA violation.

CAUTION

CautionCAUTION indicates a hazardous situation which, if not avoided, may result in minor or moderate injury. The signal word CAUTION is written in black letters on a yellow background and is preceded by the safety alert symbol. CAUTION should only be used if there is a risk of personal injury (for hazards which may result in equipment damage only, use NOTICE).

OSHA previously included an alternate header design which featured the word CAUTION written in yellow within a black rectangular shape. This header has been eliminated by ANSI. Existing signs and labels already in use which feature this older header style may continue to be used. However, OSHA states that there is to be no variation in the type of design of signs posted to warn of specific dangers, warnings, and radiation hazards. If a facility is going to update their CAUTION signs, they should do so universally to avoid an OSHA violation.

NOTICE

NoticeNOTICE is used to address practices not related to personal injury (for hazards which may result in personal injury, use CAUTION). The signal word NOTICE is written in white italic letters on a blue background. Because this signal word is never used to indicate personal injury, NOTICE must never be preceded by the safety alert symbol.

NOTICE signs provide general information that is important or relevant to a building, an area, a machine, or equipment. NOTICE signs can include information about procedures, operating instructions, maintenance information, rules, or directions. While NOTICE must never used for personal injury hazards or warnings, it can be used to indicate possible equipment or property damage.

General Safety

General SafetyThese signs are used to provide notices of general practice and rules relating to health, first aid, medical equipment, sanitation, housekeeping, and suggestions relative to general safety measures. Because this style is never used to indicate personal injury, general safety signs must never include the safety alert symbol.

Signs containing safety instructions or procedures should use heading “SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS” or “SAFETY PROCEDURES.” Where practical, use a more definitive heading, such as “SAFETY SHUTDOWN PROCEDURE.” Signs indicating the location of safety equipment should use a specific header such as “EYEWASH.” If multiple safety items are in the same location, simply use the header “SAFETY EQUIPMENT.”

Biological Hazards

BiohazardAccording to OSHA §1910.145(e)(4), “The biological hazard warning shall be used to signify the actual or potential presence of a biohazard and to identify equipment, containers, rooms, materials, experimental animals, or combinations thereof, which contain, or are contaminated with, viable hazardous agents… presenting a risk or potential risk to the well-being of man.” The symbol design is specific and must conform to the design as shown. These signs must also contain the word “Biohazard” or “Biological Hazard.”

The biohazard symbol can be black, fluorescent orange, or orange-red color. Background color is optional as long as there is sufficient contrast for the biohazard symbol to be clearly defined. A biohazard can also be indicated on a DANGER or WARNING sign and may include the safety alert symbol.

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