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An Inside Look at Symbol Standardization

Posted by Clarion Safety Systems on

To develop safety label and sign systems that communicate effectively, using consistent, best practice graphical symbols is key. That’s where the work of ISO’s Technical Committee 145 (ISO/TC 145) comes into play. ISO/TC 145 is the only international committee responsible for the standardization of the symbols used on safety labels and safety signs, like those indicating that PPE should be used to avoid certain hazards.

ISO symbols for “Wear Face Shield,” “Wear Eye Protection,” “Wear Ear Protection,” and “Wear Respiratory Protection”

ISO/TC 145’s subcommittee 2, which focuses on safety identification, signs, shapes, symbols and colors, recently held its working group 1 (WG 1) meetings. The main task of WG 1 is the registration of standardized safety symbols to visually convey the nature of hazards and how to avoid them.

Angela Lambert, Clarion’s Director of Standards Compliance and a member of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors and the U.S. TAG to ISO/TC 145, is a regular contributor to ISO/TC 145’s discussions to advance standardized symbols, and was a part of these latest WG 1 meetings.

“This is challenging work, as there are many different perspectives and nuances – related to a specific industry, culture or even another standard’s body – to take into consideration involving the development of new symbols for our stakeholders. At the same time, it’s exciting and extremely rewarding to be part of these efforts that will help to shape safety communication, eventually affecting people’s daily lives, all around the world,” she says.

What’s currently on the agenda? Here are a few key topics from the latest meetings:

  • New safety symbol proposals:
    • An application from the battery industry for a symbol meaning “Keep out of reach of children.” The industry’s need comes from a serious safety issue related to children swallowing small circular lithium disk batteries. A safety message on the batteries and their packaging could create awareness to help prevent future accidents from occurring.
    • An assessment of a series of applications from the China National Institute of Standardization related to safety symbols to warn about stepping up and down, jumping, and falling into water.
    • An application from the ISO technical committee focusing on lifts, escalators and moving walks for symbols to use within elevators meaning “Warning; Crushing.” These symbols have been standardized to the lift/elevator industry, but are not consistent with ISO design principles.
  • Criteria for elaborating and submitting a new safety symbol proposal in order to ensure that users have a clear process to help guide them as they find or create new safety symbols or fill out application forms for ISO/TC 145’s review.
  • Discussions on a working draft for ISO/Technical Report 20559, Graphical Symbols – Safety colours and safety signs – Code of practice for use of safety signs, an informative guidance document for best practices in the design and installation of safety sign systems.

To get a more detailed, behind-the-scenes look into the process of symbol standardization, be sure to watch this Clarion video. It documents part of an ISO/TC 145 committee meeting and includes interviews with key leaders like Barry Gray, the chair of ISO/TC 145 prior to Clarion’s founder, Geoffrey Peckham, taking on the position in January 2018.

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