Safety Symbols - Sign Design
Armed with the ability to recognize the different types of safety signs, their classifications, and specific symbols used, it is beneficial to know some basic sign design components prior to creating your own sign.
The three components of a safety compliance sign are the: header, safety symbol, and message panel. The following are a few examples of how to create safety signs. OSHA does not specify technical aspects for signs such as the sign size, text size and placement, and location of safety symbols. However, readability is important, so use judgment when creating your safety signs. Refer to the Facility Identification Evaluation Guide in appendix A to help you determine the technical aspects of your safety signs relative to specific areas both inside and outside your facility.
The top portion of the safety sign contains the signal word. The words “DANGER,” “WARNING,” “CAUTION,” and “NOTICE” signal the level of alert. If there is a risk of personal injury, the signal word must be preceded by the safety alert symbol (an exclamation point inside an equilateral triangle). For general safety signs, choose appropriate signal words such as “STARTUP PROCEDURE” or “EMERGENCY SHOWER.” Headers are optional on fire safety signs but should never include the safety alert symbol.
To avoid confusion, your safety compliance signs should be consistent throughout your facility. If you are currently using signs with any discontinued headers, it might be time to replace them with signs using the preferred style.
Refer to Annex E of ANSI Z535.4-2007 for help on sign classification, assessing risk, and choosing a signal word. It is also includes many more examples and sample layouts which may be appropriate for your facility. ANSI Z535.1-2006 gives further information on color standards and tolerances for the signal word panel.
The message panel describes a hazard, indicates how to avoid it, and advises workers of the consequences of not avoiding the hazard. Always follow these basic guidelines:
- Use left-aligned text
- Use sentence-style capitalization
- Use sans-serif fonts (such as Helvetica)
- Avoid prepositional phrases
- Write in “headline style”
- Use active voice
When determining the order of the message content, consider the target audience’s prior knowledge of the hazard and the necessary reaction time required to avoid dangerous consequences. Also, make sure that the most urgent message is the most prominent.
OSHA §1910.145(e)(2) states: “The wording of any sign should be easily read and concise. The sign should contain sufficient information to be easily understood. The wording should make a positive, rather than negative suggestion and should be accurate in fact.”