ANSI Z535 - New Regulations For Safety Signs
The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) is the organization
responsible for publishing the ANSI Z535 series of standards.
The ANSI Z535.4 Standard, titled Product Safety Signs and Labels,
defines the content for a safety label, as follows:
"A product safety sign or label should alert persons to
a specific hazard, the degree or level of hazard seriousness,
the probable consequence of involvement with the hazard, and how
the hazard can be avoided." (ANSI Z535.4-1998)
The American National Standard Institute has issued new standards
for safety signs and labels. Most safety professionals consider
these standards to be as important as the OSHA standards. According
to ANSI Z535.4-1998 publication, many standards of visual presentation
are suggested for maximum safety.
Before the new ANSI regulations, a sign or decal might have
looked like this:
Utilizing the new standards, a new sign might look like
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AMERICAN HAZARD IDENTIFICATION STANDARDS
The American National Standard Institute's Z535.4 provides
guidelines for the design of safety signs and labels for application
to products. These guidelines have been in use since 1991, when
this Standard was first published. Prior to approval of this Standard,
product manufacturers did not have a uniform national standard
for designing product warnings. Most manufacturers either developed
their own warning designs, borrowed the OSHA designs for environmental
and facility safety signs, or purchased generic warnings from
inventory-based safety sign companies. The result was an increase
of product safety sign designs, colors and messages.
The ANSI Z535.4 Standard sets forth a hazard communication
system developed specifically for product safety signs and labels.
It consolidates a number of previous graphic approaches into a
common design direction, carefully selected to present product
hazard information in an orderly and visually consistent manner
for effective communication.
The ANSI Z535.4 committee, consisting of representatives from
a variety of industries, took many years to develop this Standard.
As a result, there is now a single consistent standard for the
majority of product warnings, including those for use on industrial
CHOOSING A SAFETY SIGN OR LABEL
According to this Standard, a product safety sign or label
should alert persons to a specific hazard, the degree or level
of hazard seriousness, the probable consequence of involvement
with the hazard, and how the hazard can be avoided.
Product safety signs are likely to contain more information
within a smaller format and are usually observed at closer distances.
They must physically and visually integrate with a wide range
of product sizes, shapes, and color characteristics.
The signal word is the large word appearing in capital letters
on a colored background at the top of a product safety sign. This
standard defines four choices for the signal word; DANGER,
or NOTICE. Each signal word
and its background color, communicates a different level of hazard
seriousness. The four signal word choices are:
- NOTICE - indicates a
statement of company policy directly or indirectly related to
the safety of personnel or protection of property.
This signal word should not be associated directly with hazard
or hazardous situations and shall not be used in place of danger,
warning, or caution.
- DANGER - indicates an
imminently hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result
in death or serious injury. This signal word is to be limited
to the most extreme situations.
- WARNING - indicates a
potentially hazardous situation, which, if not avoided, could
result in death or serious injury.
- CAUTION - indicates a
potentially hazardous situation, which, if not avoided, may result
in minor or moderate injury. It may also be used to alert against
There are two key decisions to make when choosing the appropriate
signal word for your product's hazard:
1) How severe will the injury be if the safety sign is ignored?
If it is serious injury or death, then your choice for a signal
word is either DANGER or WARNING. If the injury is minor or moderate,
CAUTION should be used.
2) What is the likelihood that the injury will occur if the
safety sign's message is ignored? Is it a "will" or
a "could" situation? If you have decided that serious
injury or death would be the result of interaction with the hazard,
and it "will" occur if the safety sign is ignored, then
your choice for the signal word is DANGER. If the likelihood that
injury or death "could" happen should the safety sign
be ignored, then your signal word choice would be WARNING.
ANSI Z535.3 promotes adoption and use of uniform and effective
safety symbols. This Standard also provides a procedure for evaluating
image effectiveness in communicating the intended message, as
well as considerations for graphic design of symbols.
There are four types of symbols that communicate different messages.
The messages are:
1) Prohibition - A circle with a 45-degree slash from
upper left to bottom right that represents prohibited action.
2) Hazard Alerting - The preferred symbol panel which
consists of a black image (or safety red image for some symbols)
on a white background.
3) Mandatory Action - These symbols are generally used
in ANSI Z535 to convey mandatory action.
4) Information - These symbols, usually found on ANSI
Z535.2 General Safety of Fire Safety Signs, are used to convey
equipment location, egress, permitted actions, and fire equipment
When evaluating candidate symbols, you want to ensure you identify
your target audience, determine the intended message, and determine
the final size of the symbol.