ANSI Compliant Signs and Labels

The Risk of Personal Injury

In ANSI, Safety Symbols, Signs and Labels on 20 March 2009 at 9:41 am

Notice - Safety Glasses Required Beyond This Point

I recently saw a sign like this hanging in the window of a machine shop.

There is a major error here. Can you spot it?

Every organization which is responsible for standardization has been making a serious push toward universal consistency. We all work in a global market and it is common to have a multi-national workforce. With each successive release, the ANSI Z535 standards (which set specifications related to safety signs and labels) have been conforming more and more to the international criteria set by ISO. Doing so makes sure that no matter who sees your sign (and no matter where they are from), your message will be understood.

This is one of the major reasons ANSI has completely discontinued the old “OSHA style” headers*:

Discontinued OSHA-style Headers

Instead opting for a look consistent with international standards:

New ANSI Style headers

As always, this flow chart (click here) can help you pick an appropriate header. Here are the basic definitions for each signal word:

  • Safety instruction or safety equipment location signs indicate general instruction relative to safe work practices or indicate the location of safety equipment.
  • NOTICE is used to address practices not related to personal injury.
  • CAUTION indicates a hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in minor or moderate injury.
  • WARNING indicates a hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury.
  • DANGER indicates a hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury.

Thanks, Ethan, but what in the world does this have to do with your original question?

Well, take a second look at that sign and see if you can figure out the major error. I’ll give you a hint: The title of this post should give away the answer…

NOTICE signs are not used for personal injury risks, but the graphic shows a person at risk of personal injury.

In this specific case, the sign isn’t going to cause danger, but it’s not a proper warning. This is the kind of error that can cause major confusion with international visitors. It is extremely important to make sure your message is consistent. There are a couple different ways we can fix this sign. We could use a slightly different safety symbol which doesn’t feature a personal injury risk:

Notice, Safety Glasses Required

While this is more consistent, it’s also a little silly. I can’t think of a single instance where safety glasses would be required, but where there is no risk of personal injury. That doesn’t mean the situation doesn’t exist, but that’s what safety glasses are for, right? The better way to clean this up would be to add the appropriate header:

Caution Safety Glasses Required

That’s better. I’ll have to get in contact with the manager of that machine shop.

*It might be a little unfair to refer to these headers as “OSHA style.” While its true that OSHA still allows these headers on signs and labels, OSHA also requires consistency throughout a facility. OSHA certainly doesn’t want confusion, so if one sign is updated, all other signs should also be updated.

More Info:

Effective Safety Symbols
A Good Sign?

For more information on creating OSHA compliant signs, please see this Best Practices Guide offered by Graphic Products, Inc. (click here)


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