Safety Signage and OSHA Requirements

Safety Signage and OSHA Requirements

Does Your Safety Signage Meet OSHA Requirements?

Been around a construction site recently? If so, you may have noticed that the safety signage there followed a consistent format and design. There’s a good reason for that as consistent sign design helps workers quickly identify and respond to hazards at the jobsite.

In fact, signage design is so important to occupational safety that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates it. As such, employers are expected to observe those regulations when posting a safety sign.

But OSHA isn’t the only institution behind these standards. Another organization, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), has worked in tandem with OSHA to develop consistent design practices for signage makers to follow.

It’s important that your commercial printer understands and complies with those practices as it’s a matter of worker safety.

What OSHA Standards Are Used to Regulate Safety Signs?

All OSHA requirements follow the principles set out in its General Duty clause – that employers are responsible for identifying and protecting employees from any hazard that could cause injury at the workplace.

Specifically, though, safety signage is regulated in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.145. In this section OSHA defines three levels of signs and tags that should be used to identify hazards. They include:

  • Caution – Used with hazards that may cause minor or moderate injury if proper precautions aren’t taken.
  • Warning – Used with hazards that fall between caution and danger in terms of severity. If the hazard could cause serious injury or death without proper precautions, Warning signs are appropriate.
  • Danger – Used with hazards that will cause serious injury or death without precautions.

There is some room for judgment here, but what’s important is that every hazard is properly tagged with a caution, warning or danger sign.

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.145 also dictates a few other aspects of safety instruction signs. Examples include:

  • Safety signs must be clearly visible five feet away from the hazard, or from a distance warranted by the hazard.
  • Safety signs must include a signal word that is understandable to all workers.
  • Safety signs must communicate information using concise writing, pictograms (symbols) or both.

As you can see, OSHA has some general requirements for safety signage design. Those requirements are referenced in a companion ANSI standard that employers should also be familiar with.

ANSI Standards: A Necessary Complement to OSHA Regulations

The American National Standards Institute is responsible for overseeing the development of industry standards – themselves created by industry-specific organizations with specialized knowledge. These standards are critical pieces of safety regulation, for consumers and for workers.

Regarding accident prevention signs, the relevant ANSI standard is ANSI Z535. This standard has been around for decades, but is updated every several years and reaffirmed as the current-best approach to safety signage. The most recent update was in 2017, though it only made minor changes to colors.

OSHA standards have the final say on all things related to safety signage, but ANSI is next in priority, and its design concepts are generally observed.

Those design standards include:

  • Colors – Each level of safety signage is associated with its own signal color. For caution signs, this color is yellow. For warning signs, it’s orange, and for danger signs it’s red.
  • Pictograms – When visual symbols are used to convey information, they must be immediately relevant to the hazard. If a specific hazard is present, it should be represented visually. Likewise, if a particular piece of PPE is required for precautionary reasons, it should also be visually represented.

    All safety instruction signs, whether caution, warning, or danger level, should also be paired with a safety alert symbol (typically an exclamation point surrounded by a rounded triangle.

  • Messaging – Any text should be concise and convey important information with as few words as needed. The text should feature sentence-style capitalization, sans-serif type, and should be left-aligned against any pictogram for maximum readability. The text size should be large enough to be clearly visible from five feet away (or from a distance dictated by the hazard).

Using the ANSI Z535 standard, commercial printers are able to develop an array of OSHA and ANSI-compliant templates for accident prevention signs.

Experienced Commercial Printers are Experts in Occupational Safety Signage

When employers require safety signage for their worksites, they work with commercial printers to create that signage. There are several reasons why this isn’t just recommended, but necessary to ensure your worksite is properly safeguarded. Those reasons include:

  • A deep library of compliant designs – Commercial printers have a large array of OSHA and ANSI-compliant designs to choose from, including designs written in languages other than English.

    With a large design selection to choose from, employers can match their project site to the perfect signs.

  • The ability to produce at volume – Commercial printers are able to produce signage at an unmatched volume. With efficient processes in place, commercial printers can deliver enough safety signs for worksites of any size, with minimal lead times.
  • Specialized printing processes for durable signage – Construction sites, industrial facilities and other heavy-duty worksites require heavy duty signage. Paper isn’t durable enough.

    Only commercial printers with specialized equipment and processes can develop this durable signage. For example, some commercial printers can create aluminum signage through dibond printing – a technique that involves sandwiching a pair of aluminum sheets around a polymer core. Using this approach, commercial printers can create signs that are durable, corrosion resistant, and UV resistant, so they retain their sharp colors longer.

  • On point customer service – Commercial printers succeed (or fail) on the quality of their customer service. As such, they’re able to make quick changes when the client’s needs also change. For example, if the project moves onto a new phase and the worksite expands in area, an experienced commercial printer can quickly develop the necessary signage.

Safety Signage Must Be Developed to Precise Specifications, and Commercial Printing Companies Can Help

Workplace safety is a critical consideration for any business, but that’s especially true for workplaces where hazards are a real concern.

A critical element of worker safety is ensuring OSHA and ANSI compliant safety signage is in place, as it’s important for pointing out high risk areas.

If your organization regularly requires this signage, a reputable commercial printer can deliver on quality and on quantity, ensuring your company has what it needs to keep workers aware and safe on the job.

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