SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Safety Signs & Labels - Does Your Facility Comply?
According to the ANSI Z535 standards, a safety sign's message should alert viewers to the nature of the hazard, the consequences of interaction with the hazard and how to avoid the hazard. If information on consequence, avoidance or type of hazard can be readily inferred, the standards say this information may be omitted from the sign. But should you omit it? The old-style "HIGH VOLTAGE" sign only indicates what the hazard is. The sign does not tell people how to avoid the hazard. Should they stay clear or disconnect the power? Often too much is to be assumed by the reader.
ANSI 535.1 is the standard used to designate colors that alert people of hazardous areas. For example:
When we recommend risk reduction to our clients, one of the items we tell them about is the use of color and signage to alert employees to potential hazards. Take for example a stop light. What colors are used to alert the driver of pending hazards? Red for stop, yellow for caution, and green for go are common and recognizable, right? What about the shape of signs and their pictographs? Yield, stop, caution all are common and easy to recognize, and the list goes on. A good practice for reducing hazards in your facility is to install and follow the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z535 standards for recognizable signage.
Aisles and passageways should be color-coded either with a white stripe or black and white stripe painted on the floor or columns.
Dangerous parts of machinery, i.e., rims of pulleys, gears, sprockets, inside of electrical cabinets, etc., should be painted orange.
The outside of machine guards should be painted yellow or yellow with black stripes to indicate caution.
Tape is perfectly acceptable according OSHA. You do not have to paint machinery.
The ANSI Z535.2 Standard for Environmental and Facility Safety Signs covers the field of signs typically posted on walls and doorways inside factories as well as those seen in public areas. The 1998 revision of the Z535.2 standard made the shift to establish the Z535.4 product safety sign format as the preferred format for safety signs.
The ANSI Z535.2-1998 Standard for Environmental and Facility Safety Signs is used to make safety signs In facilities more consistent with those found on equipment. This will bring the U.S. closer to achieving a single national uniform system for the recognition of personal injury hazards.
The new ANSI Z535.2 -1998 preferred format for facility safety signs chosen for this program is shown below. Over and above the addition of a graphic to communicate across language barriers, this format's word message conveys the information readers need to avoid the hazard.
The standard’s stated purpose is:
- To establish a uniform and consistent visual layout for safety signs and labels applied to a wide variety of products;
- To minimize the proliferation of designs for product safety signs and labels; and
- To achieve application of a national uniform system for the recognition of potential personal injury hazards for persons using products.
The ANSI Z535.4 Standard is important to equipment manufacturers for two primary reasons. First, as the number of manufacturers complying with the Z535 standards grows, people will more easily recognize personal injury hazards before accidents happen. This should result in a lower number of product-related injuries and deaths. Second, the ANSI Z535.4 Product Safety Sign Standard gives manufacturers an officially recognized state-of-the-art benchmark for their product warnings. Before there was a uniform national standard for designing product warnings, manufacturers either developed their own signs or borrowed from the old safety sign companies. The result was a variety of safety sign designs, colors and messages.
This continues to be a significant problem since, in recent years, lawsuits based on "Inadequate Warnings" have replaced design defect cases to become the leading form of product liability lawsuit in the United States. Warnings that do not conform to the ANSI Z535.4 standard are more likely to be challenged in court as "inadequate." One of the intentions of this program is to provide equipment manufacturers with uniformly designed safety labels that comply with the ANSI Z535.4 Standard. Use of this program's standard and customized signs and labels throughout the machinery industry should strengthen your company's product liability defense.
ANSI Z535.4 can offer practical benefits for those preparing product warnings or developing company-wide hazard communication programs by streamlining the process. Limiting the need to consider a wide variety of formatting issues allows resources to be expended on other potential HazCom challenges that may be more relevant to the goal of promoting product safety.
In addition, from a product liability perspective, compliance with the standard may be viewed as evidence related to the "adequacy" of a warning in the event of "failure-to-warn" allegations.
Aside from these benefits, another potential reason for using this particular style of warning would be the expectation that it would reliably and significantly increase safe behaviors.
Meanings of Signal Words
DANGER - Indicates an imminently hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. This signal word is to be limited to the most extreme conditions. The word DANGER shall be in white letters on a safety red background.
WARNING - Indicates a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury. The word WARNING shall be in black letters on a safety orange background.
CAUTION - Indicates a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, may result in minor or moderate injury. It may also be used to alert against unsafe practices. The word CAUTION shall be in black letters on a safety yellow background.
Warning Features Specified in Z535
Safety Alert Panel Signal Word Panel
Panel with Word Message and/or Safety Symbol
The signal word panel and the exclamation point in the safety alert symbol would be printed in orange when the signal word WARNING is used.
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