The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued requirements for safety signs and symbols for industrial safety. In its regulations OSHA specifies signage for means of egress, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, personal protective equipment, and general environmental conditions. OSHA has treated each of these requirements differently, with no systematic approach for the design and content of warning signs and labels.
Although OSHA has a number of different standards with requirements for warning signs and labels, OSHA has established some criteria for safety colors. The OSHA 1910.144 standard states:
- Red shall be the basic color for the identification of:
- Fire protection equipment and apparatus.
- Danger. Safety cans or other portable containers of flammable liquids having a flash point at or below 80º F, table containers of flammable liquids (open cup tester), excluding shipping containers, shall be painted red with some additional clearly visible identification either in the form of a yellow band around the can or the name of the contents conspicuously stenciled or painted on the can in yellow. Red lights shall be provided at barricades and at temporary obstructions. Danger signs shall be painted red.
- Stop. Emergency stop bars on hazardous machines such as rubber mills, wire blocks, flat work ironers, etc., shall be red. Stop buttons or electrical switches which letters or other markings appear, used for emergency stopping of machinery shall be red.
- Yellow shall be the basic color for designating caution and for marking physical hazards such as: Striking against, stumbling, falling, tripping, and "caught in between."
OSHA also requires that safety colors be used consistently throughout the facility.
Safety Colors - ANSI
After OSHA we next turn to ANSI for additional information about safety colors. While OSHA's standards must be followed, the ANSI standards are not backed by the force of law unless they are referenced by OSHA. The ANSI Z535.1 code provides the American National Standard for safety colors. These are:
- Red is used to identify danger and stop. Red is used on danger signs and labels.
- Orange is the safety color that identifies dangerous parts of machines or equipment that may crush, cut, shock, or injure people in other ways. Orange is used on warning signs and labels.
- Yellow designates that caution should be used. Hazards such as tripping, burns, being caught between, hearing damage, and other types of injures are indicated by yellow. Yellow is used for caution signs and labels. If yellow does not contrast with the background, then solid yellow with black stripes or a yellow and black checkerboard pattern may be used to increase visibility.
- Green is the safety color used for signs with safety messages and for emergency egress signs. Green is also used for signs that identify the location of first aid and safety equipment.
- Blue identifies signs with safety information.
- Black or white signs are used to communicate wayfinding, traffic, and housekeeping information. In some circumstances yellow, or combinations of black, white, and yellow may be used for these types of signs.
- The colors purple and gray have been reserved by ANSI for future use. However, through consensus, purple has become the color associated with radiation hazards.
Safety Colors – Specific Applications
Taking the OSHA and ANSI requirements for the use of safety colors, here are a few lists giving examples showing how safety colors are used:
Safety Colors – Red – Danger & Fire Protection
- Fire Buckets
- Fire Extinguishers
- Fire Hydrants
- Fire Alarm Boxes
- Safety cans for holding flammable liquids
- Emergency Stop Bars
- Danger Signs
OSHA does not specifically define fire related equipment. As a result, for example, in some locations hire hydrants are yellow or white. In addition, in some locations fire hydrant tops or outlet caps may be color coded to indicate the available flow and pressure. This allows fire crews to cruise the streets and become familiar with areas that may have problems with the water supply.
Safety Colors – Orange - Warning
- Safety and Hunting Clothing
- Safety and Hunting Vests
- Safety Fences and Barriers
- Safety Cones and Barrels (construction zone markings and barriers)
- Tips of Replica Guns
- Road Construction Signs
- Warning Signs
Safety Colors – Yellow – Caution
- Exposed Edges of Loading Docks, Platforms, and Curbing
- Heavy Equipment (Bulldozers and other earth moving equipment)
- Bullards and Posts
- Temporary and Permanent Barriers, Handrails, and Guardrails
- Safety Clothing and Vests
- Caution Signs
Yellow is typically the safety color used for moving equipment, overhead hazards, or anything else that a worker may hit, bump into, be crushed by, be burned by, or that might otherwise cause an injury.
Safety Colors – Green – Safety Messages
- First Aid Kits
- Safety Deluge Showers
- Emergency Eye-Wash
- Safety Bulletin Boards
- Safety Instructions or Information
Safety Colors – Blue – Safety Notices
- Clothing (often clothing worn by maintenance workers)
- Maintenance Equipment
- Notice Signs
Blue is often associated with maintenance work, and to warn against moving equipment that is undergoing maintenance. Safety blue may also be used for motors, kilns, small boilers, ovens, pressure vessels, and some electrical controls.
Safety Colors – Black and White – Housekeeping and Traffic Control
- Directional Information
- Boundaries of Traffic Areas
- Break and Lunch Room Housekeeping Information
- Floor Marking To Establish Clear Areas Around Hazards
Safety Colors – Labels and Signs
While fire hydrants and other equipment may be any of several safety colors, signs, labels and tags must always be in compliance with OSHA and ANSI requirements. Danger signs must have a red header, and caution signs must be yellow. Each signal word must be used with the appropriate safety color. Choose DuraLabel custom label printers, and you'll have the ability to make OSHA and ANSI compliant safety signs, labels, and tags quickly and easily. You'll also have the only vinyl labels and signs that are warrantied after you apply them – that's DuraLabel quality. Call 888.326.9244 today for more information. Be sure to ask about the special money-saving DuraLabel kits.