Safety signs and labels are an essential part of keeping the staff who work at your organization safe. The law says that you should use safety signs, tags and labels in situations where there is a health and safety risk. Safety signs, tags, and labels are vital because they alert people that they need to take extra precautions when near or working with particular pieces of equipment when handling specific substances or entering hazardous work areas.
There are other reasons why these labels are important too. For instance, many warning labels provide instructions for what to do in case of emergency – say, for example, if a person accidentally becomes in contact with, inhales, or ingests a dangerous substance. In this article, we’re going to look at the main types of safety signs and labels that every organization must use to keep people safe.
Many modern businesses rely on the bulk transportation of dangerous chemicals. Firms need chemicals for all kinds of applications, from making paint to building boats. Chemicals are the lifeblood of the modern economy. However, they bring particular challenges, including safe handling.
The UN-GHS label format s a way of standardizing the warning labels on dangerous chemicals across countries. GHS stands for Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. The idea behind the system was to ensure that every company in the world could agree on how to label potentially dangerous chemicals so that there was no ambiguity about whether a particular substance was safe or not. Harmonizing labels across countries helped make recognizing hazardous materials easier.
Today, more than 65 countries use the GHS system to communicate information about the health, physical and environmental hazards of particular chemicals. GHS labeling requirements enable companies to see the relative danger posed by specific chemicals compared to others, making it clear when they need to take extra safety precautions.
OSHA is the organization that oversees workplace safety in the US. The organization uses three tiers of accident prevention signs and tags; they address the likelihood that a person will be injured, seriously injured, or killed by a particular hazard. The highest hazard level requires a DANGER sign. OSHA states that organizations must use this type of sign when death or severe injury results if the hazard is not avoided.
For example, a danger sign should be used on a 480-volt switchgear and distribution panel (because of the risk of arc flash burns), confined spaces, around moving machinery, like robot arms, and in areas with toxic atmospheres. Danger signs are the highest level of warning sign that a company can post to alert people to specific hazards.
Danger signs write the word “DANGER” in white on a red background and often include the term “keep away” as well as including an image of the potential hazard. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for workers to identify the risk and take the necessary precautions. Danger signs also display the safety alert symbol: a triangle containing an exclamation mark.
Warning signs are the next level down in the OSHA’s specifications for accident prevention signs and tags as well as in the hazard communication standard. Organizations should use warning signs in situations where a hazard could lead to serious injury or death, but not with the same likelihood as hazards warranting a danger sign.
Companies can use warning signs for the following conditions:
- Obstacles: Warning signs may be suitable in situations where you have an unexpected obstacle.
- Heavy Objects: Heavy objects may cause injury, so companies need to use warning signs to notify employees.
- Dangerous Machinery: Many machines put workers at risk. For example, workers may need to keep their distance from a combine harvester as it ejects bales.
The OSHA makes warning signs easily recognizable. Warning signs come with the word “WARNING” written in black on an orange background, accompanied by an image of the hazard on a white background and a written description. As with danger signs, warning signs come with a safety alert symbol, a triangle containing an exclamation mark.
OSHA states that companies should use caution signs in situations where hazards may lead to minor injuries if not avoided.
Good examples of this include:
- Failing to wear ear protection in noisy environments
- Touching a Hot Surface
- Entering a restricted area
- Failing to wear a hard hat in a restricted area
- Failing to clean up a spill which could result in a trip or fall
- Failing to wear the correct breathing apparatus
- Using the wrong door or access point
- Failing to keep or store equipment in the proper manner
Caution signs are easily recognized. They consist of the word “CAUTION” written in bold capital letters on a yellow background, with an image of the hazard and a description of the danger on a white background. Caution signs, like the other signs, comes with the safety alert symbol – a triangle containing an exclamation mark.
General Safety Instruction Signs
Of course, not all safety signs need to refer to a specific hazard. Many safety signs help to improve workplace safety by encouraging workers to take particular actions. General safety signs convey safety-related messages which could relate to sanitation, first aid, medical equipment or housekeeping. NOTICE is the common header for these type of signs.
Biological Hazard Safety Signs
Biological hazard safety signs are a particular type of hazard sign that warns workers about toxic biological agents in a facility, container or equipment. Hazardous biological agents could damage a person’s wellbeing and should be avoided.
Fires Safety Signs
Fire safety signs are essential for notifying to workers what to do in the event of a fire. Fire safety signs provide information such as the location of the nearest fire extinguisher. These signs do not provide information on how to use extinguishers in the event of an emergency.
Admittance signs show who is allowed to enter a particular area, and who isn’t. Many companies use admittance signs in combination with other safety signs to show the potential consequences of authorized access to a restricted area.
For more on Safety Tags, visit the OSHA website.
In conclusion, companies need to use the main types of safety signs and labels to ensure that they keep their people safe from varying degrees of hazards.