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Your Complete Guide to Safety Signs and Symbols Across Industries

Let our guide on safety signs, symbols, and slogans help you get your tasks done fast, error-free, and at the safest possible pace. This guide shows you the essential global safety signs and symbols used in today’s strategic shifts; their purpose and importance.

What Are Safety Signs And Symbols?

Safety signs and symbols are a visual way to communicate safety rules, potential workplace hazards, and other important information using clear graphic labels. From a yellow triangle warning sign to a red circle with a slash through it, these internationally recognized signs and symbols alert everyone to existing hazards before they can end in serious accidents or injuries.

For instance, a sign saying “DANGER” alerts you immediately to the fact that there is something potentially dangerous in the area—whether it’s slippery floors or falling objects. Signs can also show you how to properly use your oxygen mask, which exits are closest to you, or what to do if the cabin loses pressure, among others.

Safety symbols are used in conjunction with safety signs. But they’re more versatile because they don’t require text to convey their meaning. The most common symbols include a triangle (representing fire), a circle (representing containment), and an exclamation point (representing danger).

At its core, safety signs and symbols are created:

  • to alert people about any potential risks or safety measures that might exist in the area, including but not limited to fire exits, boilers, electrical equipment, etc. They’re usually black-and-white with text only, but some are also printed with red or yellow backgrounds and/or stripes—these provide extra visibility for people who may have trouble with color blindness.
  • to foster a high-margin business culture that protects people from injuries in the workplace, so they can take appropriate precautions when working near these hazards.
  • to create safe workspaces by educating and informing employees about safety issues like slippery floors or dangerous machinery, or even help them understand how to use different types of equipment.
  • to give direction to visitors who may not know where they’re going or what they should and shouldn’t be doing while visiting your facility.

The first set of safety signs in the workplace consisted of just one symbol — an X with a triangle around the outside — meaning “danger.” This was used for all kinds of hazards, from falling objects to open flames. It wasn’t until 1941 that such symbols became elements used to establish the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

In this guide, you will learn:

1. The five types of safety signs and symbols and how to use them

2. How to properly employ safety signs and symbols

3. Why safety signs are important

4. Advantages of properly placed and used safety signs

5. The differences between safety signs and symbols worldwide

6. Best practices and tips to make safety phrases and signs effective

Blue exit symbol

The 5 Types of Safety Signs and Symbols

There are different types of safety signs and symbols you need to know about, in order to effectively communicate warnings to employees, business owners, and managers of companies. They are defined as follows:

1. Safe Condition Signs

A safe condition sign is a sign that indicates a safe condition in the workplace or building. Signs in this category are used to help employees know when they can enter the area without risk of injury.

2. Hazard Signs

Warning or hazard signs are designed to warn employees about dangers or hazards that could cause harm if not addressed properly. This is usually posted by management or personnel who work regularly within certain areas.

3. Restriction Signs

Prohibition or restriction safety slogans for work can alert employees to the fact that an action or activity is prohibited in a specific area or location. For example, a sign prohibiting smoking in the building would be considered a prohibition sign.

4. Mandatory Signs

Mandatory signs and safety phrases that inform employees that they must perform an action or follow a procedure in order to remain safe while working on the job. For example, if you work in a factory where machinery is constantly moving around, a mandatory sign is there to always remind you of the possibility of injury if you get too close to it.

Installing a mandatory sign that reads “Keep Away From Moving Machinery” would be appropriate for this situation. This will clearly state what needs to be done and what needs to be avoided in order for employees to stay safe at all times while working on this particular production line.

5. Fire Equipment Signs

A fire equipment sign is a type of warning sign that tells people where fire extinguishers are located and what type of extinguisher they need for certain fires. Fire equipment warning signs and symbols should include instructions for how to use the equipment correctly as well as what type of fire it’s best suited for extinguishing (i.e., grease fires) so that employees know exactly how to respond in case of an emergency situation.

How To Use Safety Signs and Symbols Effectively

Safety signs, symbols, and their meanings are a great way to communicate information about how to stay safe and what to do in an emergency. But if you use them incorrectly, they can actually make your workplace less safe. Here are five tips for using them effectively:

  1. Keep it simple

    You don’t need to put every possible thing that could happen into a single warning sign and symbol. Focus on what would be most helpful for your specific situation. If you are in an environment where there is a risk of fire, for instance, then focus on fire-related symbols rather than other hazards like an electrical shock or falling objects. Just make sure that whatever text you include is clear and easy to read.
  2. Consider color contrast

    All colors used in safety phrases have different levels of contrast, or brightness differences between them—that’s why the white text on black paper looks so much more contrasting than black text on white paper.
  3. Train employees

    Your workplace signs should let workers know where they need to go when there is an emergency. This way, you can direct them where they can stay safe while evacuating the premises in case anything happens out of control amidst daily activities onsite.

    For example, if there is a fire or explosion at your company’s factory, then you should have signs posted around the building that says “Fire Evacuation Point.”

The Importance of Safety Signs and Symbols

According to ISO 3864-1:2011, safety signs and symbols are important because they can be the quickest way to educate employees on proper procedures. For example, if you have a business that manufactures food items, you may want to post safety signs around your facility that explain how to safely handle raw meat products.

These safety phrases are even more important when placed on products, packaging, buildings, and equipment to indicate a potential hazard. This helps employees know what to look out for when working in an area.

The most common use for safety signs and symbols is in the workplace. The OSHA requires employers to provide employees with information about workplace hazards and how to deal with them. Workers need to know what actions they can take if they encounter a hazard so they don’t cause further damage or get hurt themselves.

Another way companies use safety signs and symbols is for the selling of products or services to consumers who aren’t familiar with industry-specific terminology (e.g., medical professionals). For example, someone who’s never seen an MRI machine before might not recognize its symbol on their doctor’s office brochure without some explanation from staff members first.

The major industries where these safety symbols and signs are effective include:

  • Agriculture
  • Aviation
  • Cleaning Service
  • Construction
  • Emergency Services
  • Facility Management
  • Food & Hospitality
  • Health Services
  • Horticultural
  • Manufacturing
  • Maritime
  • Mining
  • Pharmacy & Chemistry
  • Transport & Logistic

Red stop sign

Advantages Of Using Safety Signs and Symbols

  • They reduce accidents. Accidents happen when people don’t know how to use equipment correctly or when they don’t understand what they’re supposed to do. Safety signs can help prevent these kinds of accidents by providing clear instructions on how to interact with machinery or other equipment.
  • They make it easier for employees to follow procedures. When procedures aren’t written down or explained clearly, employees will sometimes make up their own rules or skip steps altogether because they’re too busy or tired to follow proper procedures every time. Site safety signs can help remind people about important steps in a procedure so that everyone does their part correctly—even when times get busy. It can even be helpful to list safety signs and symbols in any checklists or forms that your employees use, in order to reinforce rules every single time they.
  • They protect your business from liability claims. When someone gets hurt on your property because there weren’t enough safety symbols warning them, then you could be liable for damages caused by those injuries. Signs can reduce accidents caused by hazards like slippery floors or unstable scaffolding.
  • They help employees understand the risks of their jobs. This way, they can plan for the worst and not be surprised if something goes wrong. This reduces the likelihood of injury and damage to property, which means less lost revenue for your company.

Know The Difference: Are Safety Warning Signs and Symbols The Same Worldwide?

What are prevention safety signs and safety phrases? Are safety signs and symbols standardized worldwide? These are questions that come up in every organization, from the smallest office to the largest warehouse. The answer here is “yes”, but with some important caveats.

Most countries use an international system of safety slogans and symbols for safety signage, but there are some differences in how each country implements these symbols. For example, in Germany, a blue circle with a red cross through it means “stop,” while in the United States, it’s usually a sign that says “No Stopping Anytime.” In addition, a yellow triangle with an exclamation point inside can mean either “warning” or “dangerous situation” in different countries.

While most countries have adopted this standard set of slogans for workplace safety, they have not all implemented them exactly the same way or at the same rate. This makes it difficult for employees to know whether they’re working in compliance with local laws or regulations when they’re traveling abroad on business trips—or even just visiting another city within their own country.

So what about other safety phrases and signs? Those tend to vary from country to country, too—but only slightly. For example, if you look at fire safety signs on American fire extinguishers as well as European ones side by side, they’re almost identical; the only difference is that European fire extinguishers may use pictograms instead of words to identify their contents.

Regulatory warning signs and symbols usually follow the same conventions worldwide; however, general warning sign symbols may differ between countries because there isn’t one international standard for these types of symbols yet, especially with new uniform safety signs and COVID safety signs recently established.

In other words, safety slogans, signs, and symbols can be the same worldwide, but they may be different in some cases due to culture or wording.

In terms of symbols, the meaning of a symbol will stay the same no matter where you go. For example, if you’re looking for an exit sign, it will look like an arrow pointing to left/right/down with a man near it. It will mean exactly what it means here: there’s a way out.

To know the differences between various safety phrases around the world, download this PDF file.

Best Practices To Make Warning Signs, Symbols and Slogans Effective

It’s easy to think that creating a safety sign or slogan is just a matter of writing a few words on a piece of paper, but there’s actually more to it than that. You have to consider your audience and make sure the message you’re sending is clear and relevant to your employees or business owners.

For example, if you’re trying to educate your team about the importance of wearing hard hats in construction areas, it’s better to use an image of a construction worker wearing his own hard hat instead of an image of a person who is clearly not wearing one at all. That way, everyone will know what kind of behavior they should be modeling and which type of PPE they are required to don when they’re working in this type of environment.

There are many ways you can use warning signs and symbols to improve your business and your employees’ experience. Here are some tips for making them more effective:

1. Use the right tone and language

Use clear language that everyone understands in all your workplace safety slogans. Use positive phrases like “please” instead of “don’t.” This will help ensure that employees take notice and pay attention to what the sign is trying to say. Most importantly:People don’t want to read long paragraphs on signs, so keep it concise and clear.

You should also avoid using jargon or acronyms that not everyone may be familiar with, unless everyone in your office knows what they mean, including all new hires. Make sure that they understand exactly what needs to be done without having someone else explain it first. Signs and symbols should convey the dangers ahead at a glance.

2. Keep it short, clear, and simple

Another important aspect of creating effective workplace safety slogans and symbols is making them short and sweet—more like haiku than epic poetry. You should limit yourself to one or two sentences max at most per sign. You don’t want to overwhelm people with too much information or too many words on one sign. Avoid causing confusion or distraction when they’re trying to get their job done safely.

3. Make sure that your signage matches the brand image of your company

Your brand image should reflect professionalism and competence so make sure that any signage you create reflects this image as well.

It’s also a good idea that the message is also consistent with what you’re trying to communicate across all channels. This includes social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, as well as on your websites and other marketing materials, like flyers and ads in local newspapers or magazines.

4. Ensure that the signs won’t be obstructed by equipment or materials

Make sure your signs will still be seen when elements might be moved around during the day (e.g., forklifts). They should also be visible from every angle so that everyone knows where they’re located at all times—especially if an employee isn’t wearing a hard hat.

Red fire extinguisher symbol on blue background
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