Visual warnings: New signs for the times

old-style-signs

Old-style warning signs.

We’ve all seen a red oval sign warning of “Danger.” Whether a bakery or a metal shop, virtually every business has something with a warning sign: an electrical panel or a machine, perhaps.

Many a business owner has wondered: do these signs work? Do they actually do a good job warning people: protecting me, my employees and the public?

revised-danger-signs

Revised sign standards incorporate globally recognized images.

Unfortunately, there is little data to support the effectiveness of these signs. The roots of the design date to the 1940s, and since then a significant scientific body of information has developed on the layout, verbiage and effectiveness of warning signs.

But new voluntary sign rules are a step toward standardization.

Due to globalization of the marketplace, international business has moved toward “harmonization” of information and warning signs, a method that uses graphic images and pictorials in warning and informational signage.

For several years, a group of industry representatives worked with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to support updating standards for the signs that OSHA requires for general industry and construction sites. OSHA accomplished this by adding references in its regulations to the latest versions of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards on specifications for accident prevention signs and tags, ANSI Z535.1-2006(R2011), Z535.2-2011 and Z535.5-2011.

The stated purposes of the standard are to:

  • establish a uniform and consistent visual layout for safety signs to be located in facilities and in the environment
  • minimize the proliferation of designs for environmental and facility safety signs
  • establish a national uniform system for signs that communicate safety information

The new rule allows employers to modernize and update their warning signs and still be OSHA compliant, adding more effective warnings in terms of layout, readability and the use of pictorials and graphics to convey information.  The rule became effective on September 11, 2013. However, there is no mandate to replace existing warning signs  ̶  employers may continue using the old style materials at this time.

Additional information is available at:

US Department of Labor  ̶  OSHA

Clarion Safety Systems

Submitted by Frank Bova

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