Reviewing Safety Signs Standards and Specifications
Safety signs are one of the simplest, yet most effective safety improvement options you can use for your facility. These signs are affordable, easy to get and can convey almost any message you need quickly and easily. They fall in the category of ‘visual communication’ as well, which is very important for many facilities.
If you are looking to begin using safety signs, or you’re just hoping to get better results from the signs in your facility, you will want to make sure you are following proven standards. OSHA has a series of standards and specifications that need to be used for many types of safety signs. These guidelines are required in many cases, but even in those situations where they are optional, it is a good idea to follow them just for the sake of keeping to a set standard.
Before you move forward with any type of safety sign program in your facility, you’ll want to make sure you have a good understanding of OSHA’s standards and specifications in this area. Read on to learn more about this topic so you can effectively use safety signs in your facility while remaining in compliance with all OSHA standards and specifications.
What do OSHA Regulations Cover?
The first thing to understand is that OSHA standards and specifications apply to a variety of different aspects of safety signs. The following are the main areas which you’ll need to understand:
- Design – The design of the sign itself often needs to meet standards. This includes the shape and size of the physical sign. One key point in the design of safety signs is that the edges must be rounded to ensure there are no sharp edges that could result in cuts or other injuries.
- Application – Where, how and why some signs can be regulated. For example, you can’t use a sign that uses well known fire hazard wording or symbols in an area where there is no fire risk.
- Use of Symbols – Many symbols are regulated by OSHA. These regulations typically mean that they require the use of specific hazard symbols in specific situations. Symbols can include pictograms as well.
- Safety Sign Wording – When using actual words on the sign, you must follow the set wording requirements. Like symbols, this only applies to certain situations where they have a standard in place.
- Lettering – The size, color and font of the lettering on signs needs to be in line with OSHA standards.
- Posting Location – Some signs need to be placed at certain heights, for example. In other cases you will need a sign placed every set amount of distance to ensure they are seen.
These are the most critical areas where OSHA has set requirements for safety signs. Make sure you understand each of these before you start planning or implementing a safety sign strategy in your facility.
Standards for Sign Wording
While the sign wording was mentioned above, there are some specifics that you should be aware of in this area. The safety sign wording on any sign must be easy to read and concise enough to get through quickly. Each sign should contain a sufficient amount of information to convey a message, but not so much as to cause confusion or delay while reading. Finally, all wording should convey a positive suggestion rather than a negative one. These OSHA standards apply to all safety signs.
OSHA Safety Sign Classifications
In most cases the OSHA standards will apply to entire signs, or situations where signs are useful. There are thousands of sign types that facilities use today. Most of them are not actually closely regulated by OSHA. Knowing about those with set regulations, however, is very important. The following are the three main classifications of signs regulated by OSHA:
- Danger Signs – These are signs that warn people of specific dangers or hazards. These signs are only to be used in situations where an immediate danger is present, and one which requires special precautions.
- Caution Signs – Caution signs are used to warn of potential hazards or to encourage caution against certain known unsafe practices. This is a ‘less urgent’ type of sign message. Employees must know that caution signs indicate a possible hazard.
- Safety Instruction Signs – These are to be used when there is a need to convey general instructions or even suggestions concerning safety.
Some people also include ‘Notice’ signs in this list of categories, though that is not officially the case. Notices include a statement of company policy concerning the safety of personnel or the protection of property owned by the facility. Even if notice signs aren’t officially a fourth category, it is good to know about them.
As you can see from these three common examples, the OSHA regulations don’t only require the signs notify of a risk, but they also limit the situations when certain signs should be used. This is to help ensure that facilities don’t place ‘Danger’ signs in all locations, even when there is no active danger.
Specific Safety Signs with Examples
To get a good idea of what proper safety signs should look like or how they should be used in a more practical way, consider the following types of safety signs:
- Biological Hazard Signs – When there is a biological hazard in an area. When this type of safety sign is in use employees must know that there is the potential presence of a biohazard in the area. For these signs, the hazard must present a risk to the well-being of human beings in the area.
- Slow Moving Vehicle – The slow moving vehicle safety signs need to use highly visible images including a fluorescent yellow-orange triangle with a dark red reflective border.
- Fire Extinguisher – Fire extinguisher signs should have a red pictogram of an extinguisher with bold black lettering that reads “Fire Extinguisher.” The sign should also have a red outline along all four edges. These signs should be placed as close to the actual fire extinguisher as possible.
- Caution Eye Protection Required – Caution signs letting people know that they need to wear eye protection should have a bright yellow background. The word “CAUTION” should be written at the top in large yellow print (with black outline). On the bottom portion of the sign should be the message that says, “Eye Protection Required” in bold black letters
You can find any number of examples of signs that may be needed for your facility. As you can see from these examples, however, OSHA has specific specifications and requirements for most types of signs.
This is to help create a standard that can be used across multiple industries. In fact, many of the standards not only apply to American companies, but have been adopted by regulatory agencies around the world. This can help make safety signs easier to recognize, even if you are visiting a facility in another country.
Maintaining Safety Signs
One last area of information to be aware of regarding OSHA’s standards concerning safety signs is regarding how you should maintain them. Like most things, safety signs can get worn, dirty or damaged over time. When this happens, the signs can become ineffective because they will be difficult or impossible to read.
Facilities are responsible for making sure that signs are repaired or replaced before they get to the point where they can’t be easily read. While there is no specific standard for this, it is easy to tell when a sign is beyond the point of usefulness.
Equally important is keeping the signs clean. Most facilities or worksites have a lot of dirt, dust and other things in the air which can collect on these signs. Depending on the exact environment where the sign is located, they can become so dirty that they are unreadable far quicker than many people would imagine.
To ensure you are always in compliance with OSHA regulations regarding this, make sure your cleaning crew knows that they are responsible for keeping the signs wiped down on a regular basis. Most signs can be cleaned with general surface cleaner without causing any damage.
Follow OSHA’s Lead for Effective Safety Signs
When it comes to safety signs, the best thing you can do to get the most effective results possible is to always follow OSHA’s lead. Of course, this starts with taking steps to ensure your signs are always in compliance with their regulations, but it goes well beyond that.
Even in areas where the OSHA regulations don’t strictly apply, for example, it is best to still take them into account and follow them. This will help your facility maintain a good standard throughout all areas. When you are creating custom signs or using signs in areas where OSHA doesn’t even have recommendations, you can always look at similar situations that OSHA has commented on.
From there, create internal standards that make sense based on other areas. With a little time and effort, you can help ensure your facilities safety signs are as effective as possible.
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