Earlier this year we were excited to announce that the revision cycle of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z535 was finally coming to a close. Now, after a long period of deliberation and balloting, the results are in and the new standards are getting ready to see publication. ANSI Z535 is the U.S. group in charge of the standards for safety colors, safety signs, safety symbols, product safety labels, safety tags, and how safety information is presented in product manuals.
Our director of standards compliance initiatives, Angela Lambert, has a leadership role in ANSI Z535 and has been active throughout the most recent revision and voting process, which takes place every five years. Angela is a delegate representative for ANSI, and the chair of the ANSI Z535.1 subcommittee . The recently completed balloting period for ANSI Z535 encompassed all six of the standards, as well as any standard-specific proposals, and was the final step in the revision process before their publication. The 2022 publication will replace the latest version of the standards – from 2017 – when the prior, 2011 version was reaffirmed or republished without changes.
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The First Changes in Over
“This is a key year for ANSI Z535 as it marks the first time that the standards have been reviewed and updated in more than 10 years. The committee as a whole, as well as each standard's subcommittee, has worked hard to come to a consensus on how to refine the best practices related to communicating safety in order to help protect people from harm,” Angela says.
“Of special significance is the trend across the standards that we’re seeing for continued attention on how best to refer to and harmonize with the international standards. This ranged from how to handle older versions of the safety alert symbol and “wordless” format messages with how to integrate with the ISO 7010 symbol library. While there is no easy answer, as a committee, we continue to explore how to make the standards most relevant to our audience, as well as how to align with the international standards.”
The U.S. ANSI Z535 family of standards is commonly used by manufacturers and workplaces – along with its global counterparts within International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards – as a guideline for following best practices and creating consistency in their safety warnings and instructions.
A major topic of discussion in ANSI’s revision has focused on whether or not to harmonize the standards in their differing opinions on ISO’s symbol only and ANSI’s text inclusive formats. “It’s likely that, even with the publication of the 2022 version of ANSI Z535, this will continue to be an area that those looking to follow both the ANSI and ISO standards may continue to have questions around how best to navigate. The standards aren’t prescriptive; they provide options and considerations that those applying them then need to articulate into their labels and signs with their specific application in mind. That can be a very challenging task.”
The ANSI Z535 Voting
Change proposals for each ANSI Z535 standard – including ‘global’ (encompassing all six of the standards) and standard-specific proposals – were discussed at committee meetings in 2021 and were recently balloted on in early 2022.
A few of the highlights from this process for each Z535 standard include:
ANSI Z535.1: This is responsible for safety colors, and highlights the technical definitions, color tolerances, and color standards as a uniform ANSI Z535 safety color. OSHA has approved the safety sign color codes recommended here by ANSI as a part of their compliance regulations. This standard will see new clarifications revised in how the Z535.1 standards relate to and be combined with other applicable regulations.
ANSI Z535.2: Environmental and facility safety sign formatting is covered in this part of Z535. This subcommittee develops uniform, sizes, shapes, symbols, lettering, and distance recommendations to ensure familiarity and effectiveness in the workplace. Signal words are also covered in this standard, including the well-known “DANGER”, “WARNING”, “CAUTION”, and “NOTICE” headers. Z535.2 has been updated in the 2022 voting process to also include new clarifications and harmonization with other ANSI Z535 standards.
ANSI Z535.3: Covered by this subcommittee is the criteria for the four types of safety symbols currently recognized by ANSI, the hazard alerting symbol, prohibition symbol, informational symbol, and mandatory action symbol. These differ a bit from the colorful ISO symbols, as the ANSI versions are generally portrayed as black symbols with a white background. Z535.2 will see updates in the 2022 publication that detail new ways to conduct symbol testing comprehension among employees, as well design updates to several symbols found in its annex.
ANSI Z535.4: Responsible for the design, application, use, and placement of safety labels and safety signs on products , the Z535.4 standards are extremely important for manufacturers across the United States. This standard has been approved to be updated with further clarification on its usage with other standards, as well as new text, definitions, and minor modifications to its wording.
ANSI Z535.5: Safety tags and barricade tapes for temporary hazards are covered by this subcommittee. This standard is important to all industries, but especially to those who utilize lockout/tagout procedures or need to mark certain areas (such as in the construction field). Z535.5, much like the others, will also receive new guidelines on its use with the other standards and regulations that fall into the temporary hazard category.
ANSI Z535.6: This subcommittee of Z535 takes on the task of combining all of the ANSI standards of safety labels and safety signs to be consistent for all collateral materials like manuals, guides, servicing, instructions, and other safety messages. The voting process for this standard approved some minor clarifications of confusing text, as well as new German translations for signal words.
What to Expect for the
Rest of 2022
“The next step for the ANSI Z535 standards is that, following a translation period, they’ll be published and available to the public for purchase, replacing the 2017 edition,” Angela says, noting that the timing will likely fall in the second quarter of this year.
In addition to this, there’s another significant update on the horizon for ANSI. A new ANSI Z535 standard – ANSI Z535.7 – focusing on safety information in electronic media has been approved for development, after the idea was introduced in 2021. Its scope is expected to include video materials, webpages, smartphones/tablets, and virtual reality.
Decades of Safety
As a company, we have been a longstanding and active member of both the U.S. and international standards bodies responsible for safety signs and labels. For over 30 years, Clarion Safety has been a member of the ANSI Z535 committee, and for over 20 years, has been a member of ISO/TC 145, a key international safety sign and label standards-writing committee, and the one tasked with standardizing symbols in the ISO 7010 library. Angela was also recently appointed as a liaison between the two ISO committees of ISO/TC 145 and ISO/TC 283. As standards continue to progress throughout the rest of 2022 and beyond, feel free to contact our team of safety professionals for any workplace and machinery safety or risk concerns!