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Safety sign

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Safety signs. Sign prohibiting foreign objects on a runway, Japan; Military Security zone, Germany; Fire extinguisher, ISO; Asbestos danger, United States.
Shark safety sign in South Africa

Safety signs are a type of sign designed to warn of hazards, indicate mandatory actions or required use of Personal protective equipment, prohibit actions or objects, identify the location of firefighting or safety equipment, or marking of exit routes.

In addition to being encountered in industrial facilities; safety signs are also found in public places and communities, at electrical pylons and Electrical substations, cliffs, beaches, bodies of water, on motorized equipment, such as lawn mowers, and areas closed for construction or demolition.


A 'Danger' sign from the 1914 Universal Safety Standards

In the United States[edit]

Early signs and ASA Z35.1[edit]

One of the earliest attempts to standardize safety signage in the United States was the 1914 Universal Safety Standards.[1] The signs were fairly simple in nature, consisting of an illuminated board with "DANGER" in white letters on a red field.[1] An arrow was added to draw attention to the danger if it was less obvious. Signs indicating exits, first aid kits consisted of a green board, with white letters. The goal with signs was to inform briefly.[1] The next major standards to follow were ASA[a] Z35.1 in 1941, which later revised in 1967 and 1968. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration devised their requirements from ASA Z35.1-1968 in the development of their rules, OSHA §1910.145 for the usage of safety signage[2]

ANSI Z535[edit]

In the 1980s, American National Standards Institute formed a committee to update the Z53[b] and Z35 standards. In 1991, ANSI Z535 was introduced, which was intended to modernize signage through increased use of symbols, the introduction of a new header, 'Warning' and requiring that wording not just state the hazard, but also the possible harm the hazard could inflict and how to avoid the hazard.[3] Until 2013, OSHA regulations[4] technically required usage of signage prescribed in OSHA §1910.145, based on the standard ASA Z35.1-1968. Regulation changes and clarification of the law now allow usage of signs complying with either OSHA §1910.145 or ANSI Z535 designs.[5]

Various European electricity warnings in use prior to 2000.

In Europe[edit]

Prior to widespread globalization and adoption of standards from the ISO, most countries developed their own standards for safety signage. Text only signs were common prior to introduction of European Council Directive 77/576/EEC on 25 July 1977, which required member states to have policies in place to ensure that "safety signs at all places of work conform to the principles laid down in Annex I", which required color coding and symbols. In 1992, the European Council Directive 92/58/EEC replaced EEC 77/576/EEC. The new directive included improved information on how to utilize safety signage effectively. Beyond safety signs, EEC Directive 92/58/EEC standardize markings for fire equipment, acoustic signals, verbal and hand signals for vehicle movements.[6] In 2013, the European Union adopted ISO 7010 to replace the symbols provided previously, adopting them as European Norm (EN) ISO 7010, standardizing symbols among the EU countries. Prior to this, while symbols were provided, symbols were permitted to vary in appearance "provided that they convey the same meaning and that no difference or adaptation obscures the meaning".[6]

In Australia[edit]

Australian safety signage started in 1952 as CZ4-1952: Safety signs for the occupational environment. It revised and redesignated as AS1319-1972 in 1972, with further revisions taking place in 1979, 1983 and 1994.[7] In August 2018, AS1319-1994 was reconfirmed as still being valid and not in need of major revisions.[7]

Examples of differences in Japanese signs.
A square 'No Trespassing' sign.
A vertical format warning sign.
The JIS standard symbol for 'Do not touch'.[c]

In Japan[edit]

Japanese safety signage is notable for its clear visual differences from international norms, such as use of square 'no symbols', vertical formatting of sign text. Safety sign standards are regulated by Japanese Industrial Standards through standards JIS Z9101 (Workplace and public area safety signs) JIS Z 9103 (Safety sign colors) and JIS Z 9104 (Safety signs - General specifications). While design trends have been moving towards international norms of ISO and ANSI standards, differences are still present such as the use of symbols unique to the JIS standards, using colors differently from ISO standards[d] and using a combination of Japanese kanji and English. In addition to typical safety sign standards, Japan introduced JIS Z 9098 in 2016 specifically addressing emergency management needs: informing people of areas susceptible to natural disasters, evacuation routes and safe shelters from disasters. The standard's more unique aspect is the usage of maps and diagrams to provide more detailed information about the area's hazards, shelters and evacuation routes.[8]

In China[edit]

Chinese safety signage is regulated by Standardization Administration of China using GB standards 2893-2008 and 2894-2008,[9][10] which all safety signs are legally required to comply with.[11] Designs are similar to ISO 3864 and uses older ISO 7010:2003 symbols, while adding several additional symbols covering a wider range of prohibitions and hazards.[10]

Sign design and layout[edit]

Modern signage design typically consists of a symbol, warning text and in some countries[e] a header consisting of a signal word.


North American and some Australian safety signage utilize distinctive headers to draw attention to the risk of harm from a hazard. Headers have guidelines for usage, where conditions must be met to dictate which header must be used for a sign.

Header Types[3]
OSHA/ANSI Z35.1 ANSI Z535 Signal Word Intended Use
Situation that will result in serious injury or death.
Situation could result in serious injury or death.
Situation could result moderate or minor injury.
Situations that at worst will only result in property damage and will not result in physical injuries.

The 2007 revisions to ANSI Z353.4 allowed for the 'safety alert symbol' found on 'Danger', Warning' and 'Caution' headers to be replaced with the ISO 7010 "W001 - General warning" symbol to enable compliance with ISO 3864-1 for signs used in international situations or equipment being exported abroad. Additional headers designs exist, Z53.1-1968 prescribed a magenta and yellow 'Radiation' header for radiation hazards. Other headers have been created by sign manufacturers for various situations not covered Z53.1 standard, such as "Security Notice", "Biohazard", "Restricted Area".

ISO Safety symbols. Clockwise from upper left: Prohibited, Warning; Safe condition; Mandatory.


As a means of overcoming language and literacy barriers, symbols depicting the hazards, required action or equipment, prohibited actions or items and safety equipment were introduced to safety signage during the 1990s. Globalization and increased international trade helped push this development, as a means of reducing costs associated with needing signage multiple languages.[3] Increasingly, countries are adopting symbols used by ISO 7010 and UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, that harmonizes symbols internationally to reduce confusion, and bring themselves into compliance with international standards.

Portable signage[edit]

An American "Wet Floor" sign in English and Spanish

For temporary situations such as wet floors, portable signs are used. They are designed to be self supporting and relatively easy to move once the task is complete. The 1914 Universal Safety Standards[1] provided for a portable 'Danger' sign suitable for both hard floors and soft dirt. Portable signs can take a variety of forms, from a traffic cone with stick on letters, plastic a-frame signs, to safety signs mounted on poles with bases that enable movement.[12]

Wet floor signs are also intended to avoid legal liability from injury due failing to warn of an unsafe condition.[13] They are usually yellow.[14] The warning is sometimes enhanced with new technology to provide audible warnings.[15] Robotic cleaning equipment can use wet floor signs with sonar gadgetry to know when its job is finished.[16]

Effectiveness of safety signs[edit]

Information overload: Instructions of what to do when a lightning alarm sounds are in the second paragraph.

Since the late 1980s, more emphasis has been put on testing signage for clarity and to eliminate possible misunderstandings. Researchers have examined the impacts of using different signal words, inclusion of borders and color contrast with text and symbols against sign backgrounds.[17] In 1999, a group of designers were tasked with creating standardized warning labels for personal watercraft. The group devised several versions of the same warning label using different symbols, wording and emphasis of key phrases through use of underlining, bold fonts and capitalizing. The label designs were reviewed by the United States Coast Guard, United States Power Squadron, industry representatives and subjected to ease of comprehension and readability tests. Results of these reviews and tests lead to further revisions of words and redesigning of some symbols.[18] The resulting labels are still applied to personal watercraft nearly 20 years after their initial design.[19]

Placement of signs also affects the effectiveness of signs. A 1993 study tested compliance with a warning against loading the top drawer of a filing cabinet first. The warning was least effective when it was only placed on the shipping box, but most effective when placed as part of a removable cardboard sleeve that physically obstructed the top drawer, interfering with adding files to the drawer.[20]

Sign effectiveness can be reduced from a number of factors, including information overload, where the sheer amount of information is presented in a manner that a reader is unable process it adequately, such as being confronted by a sign consisting of dozens of words with no paragraph breaks, or excessive amounts of unnecessary information.[f] This can be prevented through simplifying warnings down to their key points, with supplementary manuals or training covering the more nuanced and minor information. Overwarning is a related problem, where warnings are overlooked by people due to the sheer number of warnings, such as placing many safety signs together, redundant or obvious warnings.[17] Effectiveness can be reduced through conditions such as poor maintenance, placing a sign too high or low, or in a way that requires excessive effort to read.[g][17][6]

Technical standards[edit]

A danger of death sign in Wymondham, Norfolk.
Title Area Year of Adoption Status
ISO 3864[21][22][23] International 2011–2016 current
ISO 7010[24] International 2011 current
ISO 7001[25] International 2007 current
ISO 20712-1[26][27][h] International 2008 superseded in 2018 by ISO 7010
ISO/R 557:1967 "Symbols, dimensions and layout for safety signs"[28] International 1967 superseded in 1984 by ISO 3864:1984
Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS)[29] International 2005–2017 current
(IMO) Resolution A.1116(30)[30] International 2017 current
(IMO) Resolution A.760(18)[31] International 1993 superseded in 2017 by Resolution A.1116(30)
(IMO) Resolution A.603(15)[32] International 1987 superseded in 1993 by Resolution A.760(18)
Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008[33] European Union 2009 current
Directive 92/58/EEC[6][34] European Union 1992 current
Directive 67/548/EEC European Union 1967 superseded in 2016 by CLP[35]
Directive 77/576/EEC[36] European Union 1977 superseded in 1992 by Directive 92/58/EEC
ANSI Z535-2011[37] United States 2011 current
ANSI Z35.1 United States 1941 superseded in 1991 by ANSI Z535-1991[5]
BS 5499[38] Great Britain superseded in 2015 by BS EN ISO 7010
DIN 4844-2:2001 Germany 2001 superseded in 2013 by DIN EN ISO 7010[39][40]
AS1319-1994[41][i] Australia 1994 current
JIS Z 9101 "Workplace and public area safety signs"[42] Japan 2005 current
JIS Z 9104 "General safety signs"[43] Japan 2005 current
JIS Z 9098 "Emergency Management Signs"[44] Japan 2016 current
GB 2893-2008 "Safety Colours"[45] China 2008 current
GB 2894-2008 "Safety Signs and Guidelines for Use"[46] China 2008 current

See also[edit]


  1. ^ American Standards Association, a previous name for the American National Standards Institute.
  2. ^ Standard for Safety Color Code for Marking Physical Hazards and Equipment.
  3. ^ Compare with the ISO 'P010 - Do not touch'.
  4. ^ Using red for "emergency button" and "emergency telephone"
  5. ^ United States, Canada, Australia.
  6. ^ The 30.06 and 30.07 signs required in Texas to prohibit entry with a firearm provides an example of this. The 30.06 sign's message, 'Carrying a concealed handgun is prohibited', is a 36 word sentence, accompanied by an identical 36 word sentence in Spanish. The preceding 27 words simply states the specific statute of the law that gives the sign legal force.
  7. ^ A top loading washing machine with a lid that opens to the side with a warning label on the lid's underside. This required a reader to bend awkwardly to read the label.
  8. ^ Water Safety symbols.
  9. ^ Introduced in 1952 as Australian Standard CZ4-1952, revised & redesignated AS 1319 in 1972.


  1. ^ a b c d Hansen, Carl Marius (1914). Universal Safety Standards: A Reference Book of Rules, Drawings, Tables, Formulae, Data Suggestions for Use of Architects, Engineers, Superintendents, Foremen, Inspectors, Mechanics and Students (2nd ed.). New York, New York: Universal Safety Standards Publishing Company. pp. 38, 108–109 (Note: Page 109 is missing from this source's scan.). Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  2. ^ Occupational Health and Safety Administration. "§1910.145 Specifications for accident prevention signs and tags". Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. United States Federal Government. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b c American National Standards Institute (November 15, 2011). "ANSI Z535.4-2011 - Product Safety Signs & Labels" (PDF). ANSI. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  4. ^ Occupational Safety and Health Administration (February 22, 2011). "Standard Interpretations - ANSI standards regarding accident prevention signs and physical hazard marking". OSHA.gov. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  5. ^ a b safetysigns.com. "Do I need OSHA or ANSI safety signs?". Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d European Economic Council (24 June 1992). "Council Directive 92/58/EEC of 24 June 1992 on the minimum requirements for the provision of safety and/or health signs at work". EUR-Lex. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b AS 1319-1994 - Safety signs for the occupational environment. Standards Australia. 1994 [1983].
  8. ^ "JIS Z 9098で用いるJIS図記号". Aboc (in Japanese). 2016. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  9. ^ Guobiao Standards (12 November 2008). "Safety colours" (PDF) (in Chinese). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  10. ^ a b Guobiao Standards (11 November 2008). "Safety signs and guideline for the use" (PDF) (in Chinese). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  11. ^ ANSI. "PRC Standards System: standards Used in China". StandardsPortal.org. Retrieved 4 March 2019. GB: Mandatory National Standards
  12. ^ Tufts, John. "City installs $75K portable traffic signals to curb vehicle crashes at busy intersection". San Angelo. San Angelo Standard-Times. Retrieved 12 February 2020.
  13. ^ Steven Di Pilla (2004-06-02). Slip and Fall Prevention: A Practical Handbook. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-56670-659-9.
  14. ^ Eccles, Kimberly A.; Hummer, Joseph E. "SAFETY EFFECTS OF FLUORESCENT YELLOW WARNING SIGNS AT HAZARDOUS SITES IN DAYLIGHT" (PDF) (TRB Paper 01–2236). Transportation Research Board: 3. Retrieved 11 February 2020. The Problem Yellow warning signs are an important and abundant type of traffic control device. Yellow warning signs inform the motorist about potentially hazardous conditions on, or adjacent to, a highway. Yellow warning signs may prompt a driver to become more alert, exercise more caution, or reduce speed. Yellow warning signs are commonly used prior to changes in alignment, changes in cross section, intersections, signals, or STOP signs. Because they are relatively inexpensive, many engineers believe that installing warning signs is generally one of the most cost-effective safety countermeasures available. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ MS Wogalter, SL Young (1991), Behavioural compliance to voice and print warnings (PDF), Ergonomics
  16. ^ Larson, Jan (1998). "RoboKent - a case study in man-machine interfaces". Industrial Robot. 25 (2): 95–100. doi:10.1108/01439919810204577. ISSN 0143-991X. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
  17. ^ a b c Wogalter, Michael S.; DeJoy, David M.; Laughery, Kenneth R. (1999). Warnings and Risk Communication. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-7484-0266-3.
  18. ^ Wogalter, Michael S, ed. (2006). Handbook of Warnings. London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 723–737. ISBN 978-0-8058-4724-6.
  19. ^ Yamaha (June 2017). "Yamaha Waverunner Owner Manual" (E-book). p. 6. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  20. ^ Edworthy, Judy; Adams, Austin (1996). "2 - Warning Labels". Warning Design : A Research Prospective (1st ed.). Bristol, PA: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0748400904.
  21. ^ International Organization for Standardization (April 2011). "ISO 3864-1:2011". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  22. ^ International Organization for Standardization (December 2016). "ISO 3864-2:2016". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  23. ^ International Organization for Standardization (March 2011). "ISO 3864-4:2011". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  24. ^ International Organization for Standardization (June 2011). "ISO 7010:2011". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  25. ^ International Organization for Standardization (November 2007). "ISO 7001:2007". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  26. ^ International Organization for Standardization (2017). "ISO/PRF 7010 Graphical symbols -- Safety colours and safety signs -- Registered safety signs". Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  27. ^ International Organization for Standardization (August 2007). "ISO 20712-1:2008". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  28. ^ "ISO/R 557:1967 | Symbols, dimensions and layout for safety signs". ISO. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  29. ^ United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. "About the GHS". unece.org. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  30. ^ "Resolution A.1116(30) Adopted on 5 December 2017 ESCAPE ROUTE SIGNS AND EQUIPMENT LOCATION MARKINGS" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-11-06.
  31. ^ "RESOLUTION A.760(18) adopted on 4 November 1993 SYMBOLS RELATED TO LIFE-SAVING APPLIANCES AND ARRANGEMENTS" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-11-06.
  32. ^ "RESOLUTION A.603(15) adopted on 19 November 1987 SYMBOLS RELATED TO LIFE-SAVING APPLIANCES AND ARRANGEMENTS" (PDF). Retrieved 2023-11-06.
  33. ^ "Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP) Regulations". European Commission. 2016-12-20. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  34. ^ EUR-Lex (24 June 1992). "Minimum requirements for the provision of safety and/or health signs at work". EUR-Lex - Access to European Union Law. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  35. ^ European Commission (16 November 2018). "Classification and Labelling (CLP/GHS)". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  36. ^ European Economic Council (25 July 1977). "Council Directive 77/576/EEC of 25 July 1977 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the provision of safety signs at places of work". EUR-Lex. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  37. ^ American National Standards Institute (November 15, 2011). "ANSI Z535.4-2011 - Product Safety Signs & Labels" (PDF). ANSI. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  38. ^ Health and Safety Executive. "Safety signs and signals - 3rd Edition" (PDF). United Kingdom Government. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  39. ^ "DIN EN ISO 7010:2012-10". www.din.de. Archived from the original on 2016-01-25.
  40. ^ German Institute for Standardization (October 2012). "DIN EN ISO 7010 Graphical symbols - Safety colours and safety signs - Registered safety signs (ISO 7010:2011); German version EN ISO 7010:2012". din.de. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
  41. ^ AS 1319-1994 - Safety signs for the occupational environment. Standards Australia. 1994 [1983].
  42. ^ JIS Z 9101:2005 Safety Colours And Safety Signs - Design Principles For Safety Signs In Workplaces And Public Areas (in Japanese). Japanese Industrial Standards. 2005 [1986].
  43. ^ JIS Z 9104:2005 Safety Signs - General Specification (in Japanese). Japanese Industrial Standards. 2005 [1987].
  44. ^ Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; Japanese Industrial Standards Committee (JISC). "JIS Z 9098 災害種別避難誘導標識システム 国際提案について" (PDF). Bureau of Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 Preparation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2019. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  45. ^ Guobiao Standards (12 November 2008). "Safety colours" (PDF) (in Chinese). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2019. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  46. ^ Guobiao Standards (11 November 2008). "Safety signs and guideline for the use" (PDF) (in Chinese). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2019.

External links[edit]