OSHA's Signage Update

Understanding OSHA's Safety Sign Standards Update

For decades, OSHA's regulations for workplace safety signs were based on outdated formats that were not aligned with the latest safety communication standards and their state-of-the-art warnings technology. These sign and tag regulations had not been updated since their inception in 1971, which referenced the 1967 and 1968 versions of the USASI Z53 and Z35 standards. But, in September 2013, new OSHA regulations went into effect. OSHA updated its regulations to incorporate the latest ANSI Z535 (2011) standards, effective September 11, 2013. This regulation change is an opportunity for organizations to rethink and elevate visual safety communication in the workplace.

Clarion's Role in Championing the Latest Advances in Visual Safety

Clarion's CEO, Geoffrey Peckham, who also serves as chair of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors and chair and delegation head for ANSI to the ISO standards pertaining to safety signs, has spearheaded this update to OSHA's consensus standards. His goal has been to better align OSHA with the latest advances in safety sign technology. Read our Issue Brief to learn more.

What This Means For Workplace Safety Signs and Tags

With OSHA's regulatory update, organizations can now utilize the advances in warnings technology established in the ANSI Z535 standards for facility safety signs and tags – and be in compliance with OSHA. Prior to the rule change, facility owners using ANSI Z535 signs or tags would run the risk of being cited for violating OSHA standards because the OSHA standards only referenced the old 1967-68 standards (called a "de minimus situation"). This rule update allows employers to use either the old or new standards. For existing signage, OSHA will grandfather signs that comply with its current requirements. For new signage, OSHA will allow use of safety signs and tags that are compliant with either the old or new USASI/ANSI standards.

Why the New Standards Are Better

Most safety signs and tags in use today are based on antiquated, 70-year-old designs that lack the warnings technology incorporated into modern safety sign standards. They also fail to meet the demands of an increasingly global workforce with multiple language needs. The 2011 ANSI Z535 standards have many safety communication benefits as compared with older versions. These standards incorporate the past 70+ years of advances that have taken place in safety sign technology. As such, their use in workplaces is a significant step forward in improving safety and better protecting workers of all backgrounds.

Benefits of Using the Latest ANSI Z535 Signs and Tags

  • The new signs and tags typically provide a more substantial level of information so people can make safer decisions (such as the nature of the hazard, the consequence of interaction with the hazard, and how to avoid the hazard).
  • The concepts contained in the ANSI Z535 standards are supported by human factors research on effective warnings and by modern risk assessment methodologies.
  • The newer formats better accommodate multiple language panels and graphical symbol panels so safety is better communicated to non-English readers.
  • The ANSI Z535 standards contain design principles that exemplify current legal criteria for "adequate warnings" as defined by the past thirty years of U.S. case law.
OSHA Versus ANSI Safety Sign Comparison

OSHA Safety Sign Standards

How Clarion Can Help

Clarion is helping organizations rethink safety with our new line of facility safety signs, tags and labels that more effectively reduce risk and protect people amid today's heightened regulatory and liability environment. For more information on safety sign standards and best practices, contact Clarion or shop our online safety sign catalog.

Resource Links for More Information

Podcast Interview with Clarion CEO, Geoffrey Peckham
Clarion's Issue Brief on OSHA's Update of Consensus Standards for Signage
Clarion’s FAQ on OSHA’s Update of Consensus Standards for Signage
OSHA Documentation on Direct Final Rule

ANSI Standards Video

ANSI Safety Signs and Labels Standards Video

Clarion is your expert source for best practices in visual safety communication. To learn more about the ANSI standards in product safety labeling and facility marking systems, watch our video, "ANSI Standards in Safety Signs and Labels."