Work safety signs and labels assist in warning and preventing employee accidents and injuries in the workplace. They are a practical safety measure that lets everyone know about the potential dangers that may be present in a specific area. If safety signs were not present, your employees would not have the critical guidance that is often needed in an emergency. Safety signs are actually required by law in most industrial work environments and locations.

What is the difference between OSHA and ANSI?

OSHA – Occupational Safety & Health Administration – Its mission is “to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health”.

ANSI – American National Standards Institute – It is a private, non-profit organization (501(c)3) that administers and coordinates the U.S. voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system.

Typically, OSHA will set up laws and procedures on a broad scale to protect against specific hazards. ANSI will be consistent with these procedures but will go into greater detail on ways to implement them. They provide the technical details that the regulations of OSHA do not specify. ANSI Standards will also go the extra mile to ensure the protecting of the workforce but the regulations they recommend aren’t necessarily the law.

Most ANSI Standards are voluntary but they can become mandatory if OSHA cites them. So, in some circumstances, the ANSI Standard can become part of the law. In these cases if the specific regulation is not followed, you may be prosecuted or fined.

OSHA Safety Signs & Labels

OSHA Safety Signs and labels are a vital solution for notifying employees of workplace hazards and advising them on the appropriate precautions to take in order to avoid injuries. The header of each safety sign is mandated by OSHA but the verbiage and the nature of the wording used under the header is often left to the discretion of the employer. According to OSHA “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”. Below are the most common safety signs per OSHA 1910.145 as well as the sign regulations.

Sign Header for OSHA Signs:

  • Uses familiar block style headers.
  • These headers were used in prior ANSI standards.
  • Colors are dictated by hazard signal word.
  • Center Justified in the text area.
  • All capital letters.

OSHA DangerOSHA Danger Sign & Label – Used to indicate that a hazard exists with a high probability of death or serious injury. According to OSHA this sign “shall be used in major hazard situations where an immediate hazard presents a threat of death or serious injury to employees. Danger tags shall be used only in these situations.”

OSHA WarningOSHA Warning Sign & Label – Used to indicate that a hazard exists with some probability of death or serious injury. According to OSHA this sign “may be used to represent a hazard level between “Caution” and “Danger,” instead of the required “Caution” tag, provided that they have a signal word of “Warning,” an appropriate major message, and otherwise meet the general tag criteria of paragraph (f)(4) of OSHA regulation.”

OSHA CautionOSHA Caution Sign & Label – Used to indicate that a hazardous situation may exist that can result in minor or moderate injury. According to OSHA this sign “shall be used in minor hazard situations where a non-immediate or potential hazard or unsafe practice presents a lesser threat of employee injury.”

OSHA NoticeOSHA Notice Sign & Label – Used to provide general information needed to avoid confusion. A notice sign provides general information that is related to a building, area, machine, vehicle, or equipment. The information is not crucial for safety, but is important.

OSHA General SignOSHA General Safety Signs – The OSHA general safety header should be used to indicate general precautions and reminders. This type of sign could have a number of slogans or sayings.

ANSI Safety Signs & Labels

Like OSHA, ANSI safety signs are also designed to clearly communicate to any observer of the potential dangers that may be present. These newer ANSI developed signs and labels, while not the OSHA standard, are still recognized by OSHA as an adequate device for warning against potential workplace hazards. The noticeable differences consist of a triangle with an exclamation point, a large symbol in the center of the sign, a left justified message, and upper and lower case lettering. ANSI has determined that this sign format is easier and quicker to read and comprehend. Regardless of the chosen format, employees should be trained to recognize these signs and more importantly the dangers that may be present in the workplace. The ANSI signs below can be easily recognized by their color and single word header.

ANSI Sign Headers:

  • Uses a triangle and exclamation point.
  • Common Size on Hazard Level Signal Words.
  • Colors are dictated by hazard signal word.
  • Left justified in the text area with correct punctuation.
  • Capital and small letters in paragraph form.

ANSI DangerANSI Danger Sign & Label – The ANSI danger header indicates an imminently hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. This
signal word is associated with the color red and is to be limited to the most extreme situations.

ANSI WarningANSI Warning Sign & Label – The ANSI warning header should be used on signs to warn observers of potentially hazardous situations that could result in death or serious injury. This sign uses the word “warning” and will use the color orange.

ANSI CautionANSI Caution Sign & Label – The ANSI caution header indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in minor or moderate injury. It may also be used without the safety alert symbol as an alternative to “NOTICE”.

ANSI NoticeANSI Notice Sign & Label – The ANSI caution header is the preferred signal word to address practices not related to personal injury. The safety alert symbol shall not be used with this signal word. As an alternative to “NOTICE”, the word “CAUTION” without the safety alert symbol may be used to indicate a message not related to personal injury.”

ANSI General SafetyANSI General Safety Signs – The ANSI general safety header should be used to indicate general precautions and reminders.

Hazards exist in every workplace, and employers have a responsibility to warn their employees of these hazards. Safety signs are one of the easiest ways to ensure a safe environment for all employees.