The Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA is dedicated to the health and well-being of employees while on the job. Day in and day out employees are exposed to potentially dangerous situations based upon their specific job functions. Whether a person is employed at a manufacturing facility, an auto body shop, or within a large warehouse, OSHA regulations aim to provide the warnings needed to keep hazards at a minimum and keep employees informed about their surroundings. One of ways in which employees are kept informed about the hazards and dangers within their work environments is through the usage of warning labels.
Types of OSHA Warning Labels and Signs
The term warning label or sign can be used interchangeably in regards to OSHA’s recommendations for hazard warning. There are basically three types of labels or signs outlined within OSHA 1910.145 and they are used to indicate danger, caution, or general safety instruction.
Danger Sign/Labels: Danger labels or signs should feature the colors or red, black, and white. Employees should be informed that whenever danger signs or labels are posted they should exercise extreme caution as many hazards are immediate. This does not mean dangers are possible, it means they are imminent if certain things were to happen.
Caution Sign/Labels: Any signage or labels indicating caution should feature a yellow background with black lettering. Caution labels or signs should be used to inform employees about potential hazards. This is unlike danger signs, since dangers signs indicate certain dangers that ARE there, while caution indicates that hazards are just simply POSSIBLE.
Safety Instruction Sign/Labels: The standard background should be white, with black letters upon the white background. In addition, on the panel, green with white letters may also be used. This type of warning label or sign is used when general information related to certain safety practices is available.
Furthermore, OSHA indicates in 1910.145(f) (7) – Warning tags. “Warning tags may be used to represent a hazard level between “Caution” and “Danger,” instead of the required “Caution” tag, provided that they have a signal word of “Warning,” an appropriate major message, and otherwise meet the general tag criteria of paragraph (f)(4) of this section.”
Sign or Label Placement
What is just about as important as the label or sign itself? The placement! All warning labels or signs should be placed in areas that are highly visible to both employees and visitors. For example, you would never want to place a warning label behind a housing unit for equipment, it would never be seen. It is crucial that all warning labels be placed in areas that are highly visible. Keeping this in mind, labels should be placed at eye-level when appropriate, and feature the OSHA approved bold color combinations as described above.
A well-labeled facility can enjoy an array of safety benefits, from confident employees who feel safe within their work environments to the actual, tangible safety and well-being of employees and visitors. OSHA warning labels are not just a recommendation within the workplace, but a must-have in any business setting that elicits the potential of safety hazards.
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