Whether your workplace has been in operation for decades or it's a brand new facility, the likelihood is that a wide variety of safety signs are installed on the walls and doors of your facility. The purpose of safety signs is to guide human behavior and reinforce training so that hazards are avoided, people are not injured and/or equipment and the facility are not damaged. As such, safety signs play a critical role in your overall safety program. Given their important function, the irony of the situation is that many safety engineers are unaware of the latest standards regarding safety sign design and therefore their facilities lack a coherent well-defined strategy for visually communicating safety information in compliance with current standards. The standards in this area exist for a reason - they provide a definition for the "best practice," the "state-of-the-art," for industry to follow with regards to conveying safety messages in the form of signs, labels, tags and markings. Attendees at this presentation will learn what is involved in the development of a well designed facility signage program. The presentation will cover the history of safety sign standardization, describe the current relevant standards and give concrete, practical steps towards implementing a company-wide strategy that uses the latest technology for the visual communication of safety in the workplace.
Safety signs are recognized as one of the oldest types of safety equipment. The earliest guidance on their use dates back to a pamphlet titled, "Signs and Slogans" published in 1914. This document was referenced in the first American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard on signage, Z35.1 Accident Prevention Signs (1941). The 1967 version of ANSI Z35.1 served as the basis document for OSHA's safety sign regulation 29 CFR 1910.145, Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags issued in 1971. The current OSHA regulation for safety sign design has not changed; it is still based on the vintage 1940's-1960's ANSI standard. This would be fine except for the fact that the ANSI Z35.1 standard was replaced by the ANSI Z535.2 Environmental and Facility Safety Sign Standard in 1991, a standard which has been revised every 5–6 years according to ANSI's revision policy. Over the years new and improved methods for visually communicating safety information have been developed by the ANSI Z535 committee, the committee in charge of the development of national standards for safety signs, colors, symbols, labels, tags and the communication of safety information in manuals. The fact is that in an effort to nationally standardize on improved formatting methodologies, the outdated Z35.1/OSHA formats were relegated to a non-preferred status in the 1998 version of the ANSI Z535 standards and then were made completely obsolete in the 2002 ANSI Z535 standards (see Exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1: Examples of the ANSI Z35.1-1967/OSHA formats made obsolete by ANSI Z535.2-2002 (available in full paper).