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January 03, 2014
Give a sign for safety; Looking at accident prevention signs and tags

You’ve seen the signs—the ones that say important things like “Bridge Out” or “Wrong Way”—but somehow the cartoon and movie characters miss them because the signs are overgrown with brush, blown over by the wind, or otherwise obscured.

On film, it’s a dramatic or comedic effect, giving the viewer information that the character does not know. In real life, though, safety signs that aren’t visible and effective can be a matter of life and death.

Requirements for accident prevention signs and tags

It’s important to make sure that everyone in your facility is aware of all hazards. Training is one way to do the job. Appropriate signage throughout your facility is another. This kind of signage is called “accident prevention” signage because the purpose is to prevent accidental injuries or property damage.

OSHA requires, in 29 CFR 1910.145, that accident prevention signs and tags be used in any area where not identifying a hazard could lead to accidental injury to workers or the public, or to property damage.

OSHA’s rules do not apply to some signs that fall under different regulations, including:

  • Street signs,
  • Highway signs, and
  • Railroad signs.

Safety posters and bulletin boards are also exempt.

Signs that are dirty, worn, or faded may not do the job; clean or replace any accident prevention signs that cannot be read clearly.

As with any safety device, the sign itself should not pose a hazard. It should have rounded or blunt corners and be free from sharp edges, burrs, splinters, or other sharp projections. The ends or heads of bolts or other fastening devices must be located in such a way that they do not constitute a hazard.

What color is safety?

Safety signs are color-coded and use standard, recognizable pictographs to indicate the type of danger (or safety) at a glance, combined with a brief verbal message that gives specific information. Signs and tags warn people in the area about the specific hazard, how dangerous a situation is, and/or the precautions they should take—anything from “Do Not Enter” to “Wear Hearing Protection.”

Red is for danger. Red danger signs and tags with contrasting black or white lettering are used only in areas where an immediate, serious hazard—one that can cause death or serious injury—exists. Flammable liquids are typically marked in red. Red markings are also used for some safety equipment, such as emergency stop bars, buttons, and switches.

Yellow is for caution. Yellow and black caution signs and tags warn about potential hazards or unsafe practices that could cause minor injuries. Wet floors, radiation, and “Do Not Enter” signs are often found in the form of yellow caution signs.

Green is for safety. Safety instruction signs have a white background, a green panel, and black and white letters or markings. These signs provide general safety information. For example, they are used to mark the location of emergency exits, first-aid kits, and safety equipment.

Watch out for biohazards. Where a biohazard exists, the “biohazard flower” pictograph must be used. This indicates the actual or potential presence of a hiohazard presenting a risk to humans. Biohazard signs and tags are placed on equipment, containers, rooms, materials, and experimental animals contaminated with viable hazardous agents.

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