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Best Practice Safety Signs with ANSI Z535.2

How can you effectively develop safety signs for your workplace that are in line with today’s best practices? Once again, the ANSI Z535 series of standards has you covered! ANSI Z535.2: Environmental And Facility Safety Signs is the ANSI standard that provides requirements for safety signs in facilities and the environment.

What is ANSI Z535.2?
ANSI Z535.2 is a standard developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) that specifies the requirements for environmental and facility safety signs. This standard is part of the ANSI Z535 family of standards. The Z535 series covers different aspects of safety signs, labels, colors, and symbols to ensure consistency and effectiveness in communicating safety information. The goal of the ANSI Z535 standards is to develop, refine, and promote a single, uniform graphic system used for communicating safety and accident prevention information.

Safety Sign Standardization – A Brief History
Since the early 1900s, signs have been used to communicate safety messages to workers to help prevent accidents. In 1914, the Worker’s Compensation Bureau printed a comprehensive booklet on safety practices – the first published best practice guide for safety signs. The Bureau advocated the use of DANGER safety signs in combination with arrow signs that pointed to potential hazards. Between 1920 and 1940, various safety pamphlets and articles were published that encouraged the use of safety signs to communicate hazards. Then, in the late 1930s, an industry committee was to write a U.S. national standard for safety signs. In 1941, ASA Z35.1 Specifications for Industrial Accident Prevention Signs was published. For the next 57 years this standard governed safety sign design in the U.S.

In 1971, OSHA cited the 1967 version of the ASA Z35.1 standard as the basis for their regulations wherever safety signs were required. (Later, in 2013, Clarion Safety led OSHA to change its safety sign regulations; OSHA standards now allow organizations to use the latest ANSI Z535 standards’ formats

instead of the 1967 Z35.1 formats.) Then, beginning in the 1980s, new safety sign technology started to be developed. Graphical symbols were becoming recognized for their ability to communicate quickly and across language barriers. Risk and hazard analysis methodologies were developed to reduce risk in both public areas and workplaces. Global trade was increasing. And U.S. court precedents set a new

legal framework for liability that hinged on the “duty to warn” and “inadequate warnings.” In 1985, the ANSI Z535 committee was formed to rewrite the Z35.1 standard to incorporate the latest safety communication best practices that would give users the ability to meet the new legal bar for providing “adequate” warnings.

The Modern Age of Safety Sign Design, Including ANSI Z525.2 and its Latest Revisions
In 1991, the ANSI Z535 standards were approved for publication, ushering in the modern age of U.S. safety sign design. These standards established a three-tier, color-coded system of hazard severity recognition for safety signs, labels, and tags. A new symbol standard used ISO methodologies for comprehension testing and encouraged the use of symbols and pictograms to more effectively communicate safety.

In 1998, the ANSI Z535.2 safety sign standard and Z535.5 safety tag standard began phasing in use of the newer, content-rich ANSI Z535.4 product safety label formats. By the 2002 ANSI Z535 revision, all three standards fully adopted the use of the newer formats and the old 1941-era OSHA-style formats were discarded. The 2007 revision of the ANSI Z535 standards then realized a decade’s worth of international harmonization efforts by incorporating ISO safety sign design principles.

In 2011, ANSI Z535.2 was revised to better harmonize with ANSI Z535.4, ANSI Z535.5, and ANSI Z535.6. The latest edition of the ANSI Z535.2, the 2023 version, was revised to clarify the relationship of the standard with other applicable standards and regulations.

Key Elements of ANSI Z535.2
The content of your facility’s safety signs is something that needs careful consideration and alignment with the latest best practices. Here, ANSI Z535.2 provides helpful guidelines.

Key areas of the ANSI Z535.2 standard include:

  • Safety Sign Design: The standard specifies the design, content, and placement of safety signs. This includes the use of specific colors, signal words (like "Danger," "Warning," "Caution"), and symbols.
  • Color Codes: The standard defines color codes to be used in safety signs. For example, red is used for danger signs, orange for warning signs, yellow for caution signs, and green for safety equipment or information signs.
  • Signal Words: The standard includes guidelines on the use of signal words to convey the severity level of the hazard.
  • Text and Layout: The standard provides a guide for safety sign text size, font, and layout, highlighting areas related to readability and viewing distance. This includes best practices for the placement of signal words, safety messages, and symbols.
  • Symbols: The standard specifies the use of internationally recognized symbols to aid in the comprehension of safety messages, including across language barriers.
  • Durability and Maintenance: The standard outlines materials and durability requirements for safety signs to ensure they remain effective over time, even in harsh environmental conditions.

Types of ANSI Z535.2 Safety Signs
ANSI Z535.2 also describes the different types of safety signs that can be used in facilities and the environment. ANSI delineates five types of signs:

  1. Hazard Alerting Signs: This type of sign is classified by the relative seriousness of the hazardous situation. The classification is based on the probability of being injured if the hazard is not avoided and on the severity of the resulting injury. For hazard alerting signs, there are three hazard classifications that are represented by the signal words “DANGER,” “WARNING,” and “CAUTION.”

o   DANGER: Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury.
o   WARNING: Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury.
o   CAUTION: Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in minor or moderate injury.

2. Notice Signs: These signs indicate information considered important but not hazard-related. For environmental/facility signs, NOTICE is typically the signal word used for messages relating to property damage, security, sanitation, and housekeeping rules.

3. Safety Instruction Signs: These signs identify specific safety-related instructions or procedures.

4. Safety Equipment Location Signs: These signs identify the direction to, or the location of, safety equipment, like first aid equipment.

5. Fire Equipment Location Signs: These signs identify the direction to, or the location of, fire equipment, such as fire hoses or extinguishers.

OSHA Vs. ANSI/ISO Safety Sign Requirements
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, governs safety signs in the United States. In OSHA’s Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags, 29 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 1910.145, it provides specification for signs, accident prevention signs, and safety tags. According to the regulation, signs must be put in place "to indicate and define specific hazards." It also spells out the necessity of explaining the gravity of the threat and required imagery.

It’s important for safety professionals to understand that this is the most basic level of safety sign design and implementation. The ANSI and ISO standards offer additional, critical detail. They contain the latest criteria for state of the art warnings.

Together, Moving Towards a Safer Future
It’s imperative to effectively communicate safety in today’s workplaces in order to protect employees, temporary workers, subcontractors and the general public from harm. Clarion Safety approaches safety signage in a holistic manner – balancing the regulations you aim to meet, risk mitigation, design and clarity so that signs are not only compliant, but also highly effective at keeping workers safe.

We specialize in designing safety signs and safety sign systems that are not only compliant with OSHA, ANSI and ISO, but use the latest warnings technology to more effectively create awareness and explain hazards specific to your workplace. We also offer comprehensive machine risk assessment and machine safeguarding services. Reach out to our team today to learn more!

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