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Elements of OSHA Compliant Signs

October 18, 2019

All businesses must provide a safe working environment for employees. Safety standards are enforced by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which collaborates on developing these standards with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Here are important elements to consider for OSHA compliant signs.

Basic OSHA Requirements

There are a variety of workplace signs that must meet OSHA and ANSI standards if they relate to safety. OSHA’s three classifications for safety signage are danger, unsafe conditions, and safety instruction. Red usually means danger or stop, orange is for warnings, and yellow is for caution. Green is often the color of safety signs, while blue is used for more detailed safety information. Other standards, such as sign colors, are set by ANSI and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

One of the most essential standards for safety signs is that lettering size must be big enough to be visible from 100 feet. Generally for people with normal vision, four inch high lettering will be sufficient, but it still depends on where the sign is placed. Wording must be concise and easy to read and should lean toward a positive instead of negative tone.

Other key requirements are that safety signs must not obstruct other safety signs and that retro-reflective coating must be placed on signs so that they can be seen more easily in the absence of sufficient lighting. Some signs may need extra illumination if they have faded from too much exposure to UV rays.

How Various Sign Types Reduce Accidents

The main purpose of these signs is to promote a safe workplace with plenty of visual reminders for operating machinery and doing other tasks safely. Sometimes workers try to cut corners on safety, such as not wearing the proper ear gear. Placing eye safety signs in strategic places, however, can help make safety a top of mind awareness issue.

A common cause of workplace accidents is spilling slippery substances on the floor, leading to people slipping and falling. Many times, workers are so focused on a project that they forget to check the ground. In a factory with a cement floor, falling can as be devasting as requiring back, hip or knee surgery. These places, particularly auto shops, need safety signs that remind workers they are dealing with dangerous materials.

An employer should be very concerned about worker safety for the sake of keeping a consistent healthy workforce and to avoid worker compensation cases for on the job injuries. The more a company can limit accidents, the more it can promote a track record of workplace safety, which can be impressive to investors. When designing safety signs it’s best to review OSHA’s standard number 1910.145 for further guidance.

OSHA has specific requirements for certain signage, such as for radiation hazards. Caution signs must only warn about potential hazards and unsafe practices. Safety instruction signs should be posted in areas where general instructions and safety measures are needed. The term “biohazard” specifically refers to infectious agents that present a risk to humans of death, injury or illness.

Tags are additional pieces of information about hazardous conditions usually in the form of card, paper or plastic material. Tags should contain a signal word (such as danger) and a major message, which gives specific details relating to the signal word. These tags should be placed near equipment or other sources of potential hazards.


American businesses must be aware of OSHA compliant signs and place them where needed in the workplace. Contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location to learn more about promoting worker safety with OSHA compliant signs.

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