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Where Warning Signs Are Needed Most

May 15, 2020

Everywhere people go in public has potential danger, but warning signs should be limited to the most severe dangers so that they don’t lose their meaning. Even the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), a set of standards for American road signs, states that warning signs should be kept to a minimum. If people see such signs everywhere they turn, the probably would stop taking them seriously. That’s why sign placement must be done carefully and strategically.

Street Warnings

The purpose of yellow or orange warning signs on streets is to raise awareness among motorists of a possible danger to themselves or others. It may involve a high risk area, the weather, or road conditions. Unlike red or black and white regulatory signs, warnings signs are just advisories and do not dictate driver activity. Here are examples of areas where these signs provide the most benefits:

  • intersections with obstructed view
  • preparing drivers to stop ahead
  • merging lanes ahead
  • new lanes ahead
  • reduced speed limit ahead
  • slippery when wet
  • danger of falling rocks
  • narrow bridge
  • divided highways
  • rough road or pavement ends
  • gusty winds
  • no center line
  • no passing zone
  • low clearance
  • railroad crossing
  • pedestrian crossing
  • animal crossing

There are several other scenarios where warnings may be needed depending on the climate, state laws, and other factors. Separate specialized signs are necessary for big rigs to keep truckers on their routes and where scales are located. Signs such as ‘trucks use lower gear’ help truck drivers avoid damage to their vehicles while moving up and down steep hills. When a big rig breaks down on a freeway, it can mean trouble for hundreds of other drivers.

Advisory signs are helpful in both urban and rural environments, as they can help prevent accidents and tie-ups. Curving roads that wind around trees and cliffs definitely need a series of warning signs to help guide drivers to safety.

Workplace Warning Areas

While MUTCD is the guide for street warning signs, OSHA sets the standards for workplace safety. One key difference is that certain OSHA warning signs are mandatory for employers to post, such as the agency’s “Job Safety and Health: It’s the Law” poster. This poster asserts that all workers have a right to a safe workplace, along with several other rights. The sign also states that workers have the right to receive information and training regarding job hazards. This poster can be ordered for free from OSHA.

One of the most fundamental requirements of OSHA is that all work environments and surfaces are kept in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition. Buildings must be structurally free of hazards such as corrosion, leaks, and loose boards. Due to these regulations, it’s unlikely you’ll see a sign at any place of employment that warns people to cover their heads to protect against a fragile roof. It’s a given building officials are responsible for its maintenance.

Employers, however, must post specific signs or labels in places where a hazard threatens the safety of workers. OSHA’s classifications for workplace safety signs include danger, warning, and caution. A danger sign is needed wherever immediate hazards are possible that can lead to death or serious injury. Warning signs are for less problematic scenarios that still have the possiblity of death or injury. Caution signs indicate the possibility of a minor injury.


Warning signs are needed for many situations on streets and in buildings to protect the public, but it’s important not to saturate areas with too many signs. Contact Zumar at our Arizona, California or Washington location to learn more about appropriate sign placement for roads and offices.

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