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Criteria for ANSI Z535.3 Safety Symbols


The Origin of the Z535.3 Standard
ANSI Z535 is an American series of standards that provides a system for presenting safety and accident information – making it an important guideline for developing best practice safety labels and signs. One of the standards in this series – ANSI Z535.3 – focuses specifically on symbols. The most recent version and full name of this standard is: ANSI Z535.3-2022: Criteria for Safety Symbols. ANSI Z535.3 provides criteria for the design, evaluation, and use of safety symbols to identify and warn against hazards and personal injury. With the ability to quickly provide important safety information across different languages, reading comprehension levels, and learning backgrounds, effective symbols are consistent in their design. This consistency often creates a familiarity with the images, making it easier to notice differences, such as the addition of a hard hat or other feature that is important to the potentially hazardous situation. The goal of this standard is to promote the adoption of effective safety symbols for safety communication and supply a procedure to do so.


Learn More About the Latest ANSI Z535.3 Updates


What Does ANSI Z535.3 Cover?
Labels and signs that use safety symbols, instead of word alone, can help to achieve more rapid communication of the safety message and, ultimately, greater safety for those using, cleaning, or maintaining machinery. ANSI Z535.3 was created for the diverse U.S. population that has a range of reading and word comprehension skills. The standard defines a safety symbol as a configuration that includes an image, with or without a surround shape that communicates a message without the use of words. Image effectiveness includes consideration of a simple and recognizable graphic design, such a pictograms, pictorials, or glyphs of safety symbols and ability to communicate the intended message, which is critical for accident prevention and personal protection. Images that are used in Z535.3 typically include the following:

  • Arrows
  • Symmetry
  • Direction
  • Representation of the human figure
  • Hand profiles
  • Feet
  • Proportion and form
  • Use of determinants
  • Use of supplementary text or training.

How Many Types of Symbols Does ANSI Z535.3 Recognize?
The ANSI Z535.3 standard recognizes four separate types of symbol messaging to communicate different safety messages: Hazard Alerting, Mandatory Action, Prohibition, and Information. ANSI’s guidelines for these types of symbols include:

Hazard Alerting:
This type of symbol conveys information primarily related to the nature of hazards. This symbol should be drawn within a safety yellow equilateral triangle with a black border.

Mandatory Action: This type of symbol designates the actions that should be taken to avoid hazards. This symbol should consist of a white image within a solid safety blue circular surround shape.

Prohibition: This type of symbol is for actions that should not be taken. It consists of a circular band with a diagonal slash at 45 degrees from upper left to lower right and is used to indicate prohibition. The prohibition symbol consists of a black image, red circular band with slash, and white background.

Information: This type of symbol is a more versatile design that conveys a safe condition (equipment location, egress, permitted actions) or fire safety (fire equipment location). When conveying a safe condition, the symbol consists of a white image on a green square or rectangular background. When conveying fire safety, the symbol should consist of a white image within a red square or rectangular background.

Why Were Safety Symbols Developed?
In the early 1900’s, one out of every four immigrant steel workers were killed or injured working on the job in the United States. Steelmaking was not only highly dangerous work for immigrants who did not read or speak English, but also for literate professionals. A lack of safety standards and poor visual communications only exacerbated the already hazardous work in steel mills; this eventually lead to public exposure to the unsafe working conditions in factories, which brought on the need for reforms in the workplace, including the implementation of safety symbols.

In 1914, the Worker’s Compensation Bureau
released its first publication about the importance of safety signage: “Signs and Slogans.” The pamphlet stressed that safety signs were crucial in the workplace, and advocated for the use of DANGER safety signs in the languages of the workers. It did not, however, provide any standard format or guidelines for safety symbols. Later in 1941, came the first publication of ASA Z35.1 Specification for Industrial Accident Prevention Signs, which outlined specifications for safety sign design and introduced standard formats for DANGER signs, CAUTION signs, NOTICE signs, and EXIT signs. Almost a century later, ANSI Z535.3-2022 was republished, extensively detailing the procedure of designing, evaluating, and using safety symbols.

Recent Updates to ANSI Z535.3
ANSI Z535.3 Criteria for Safety Symbols came with updates in 2022 that detailed new ways to conduct symbol testing comprehension among employees, as well as design updates to several symbols found in its annex. The exact details of the Z535.3 standard can be found on
ANSI’s webstore, available to purchase with the latest 2022 edition. It is important to note that the ANSI standards are typically reviewed every 5 years, with the next round of revisions expected in 2027.

Your Responsibility as a Manufacturer
Legally, when a standard is revised, your duty to warn in the U.S. obligates you to make sure your labels are still in compliance with the latest updated standard. Internationally, a number of compliance issues hinge on meeting current standards because many countries and regions use adherence to the latest standards as a measure of a manufacturer’s efforts to meet industry best practices. The job of defining the proper content of your product's safety labels – including the symbols you use – is one that is never finished. Clarion Safety, as your safety label provider and product safety/liability expert, can help you navigate the best path forward. We’re fully informed on how the safety sign and labeling standards are changing and how they can be applied by today’s manufacturers, as well as which safety symbols are currently in the process of being registered or standardized.

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