Fewer work locations have a greater need for safety signage than those for construction. It’s considered a high-risk industry. While building accounts for only about 5% of America’s employees, construction workers suffer 10% of the country’s major injuries and over 20% of fatal injuries.
Given these risks, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have developed construction sign and site signage regulations. They promise safer conditions for the nearly 6.5 million people who work at over 250,000 building sites in the U.S. each day.
OSHA & ANSI: An overview
OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.145 guideline covers signs and tags that identify hazards. It cites when safety signs must be used and details their design requirements. These design elements form the basis of ANSI’s Z535 standard. It builds on OSHA’s rules by specifying alert symbols and pictograms to alert workers to hazards. Almost every aspect of safety sign design is addressed. These include:
- Colors, e.g., red, orange, yellow, etc.
- Letter size and style
- Placement of signs and labels
- Wording, e.g., “Danger” or “Caution”
Types of danger, warning and caution signs
OSHA and ANSI have created three risk severity classifications for construction site hazard signs. They are:
- Danger signs: These signs alert workers to the most serious hazards where death or serious injury is almost certain to occur if the risk is not avoided. Danger signs feature the word “Danger” printed in white letters on a red background. The word is preceded by the safety alert symbol: an exclamation point within a triangle.
- Warning signs: Warning signs notify people to threats that can result in serious injury or death (but where the overall risk fall short of using a standard danger sign). The safety alert triangle appears to the left of “Warning.” Warning signs are printed in black over an orange background.
- Caution signs: This signage usually warns against unsafe practices. The risks noted may cause minor or moderate injuries if they’re not avoided. On caution signs, “Caution” is printed in black on a yellow background. As with danger signs and warning signs, a safety alert symbol appears to the left of the signal word.
Five kinds of safety signs
While construction site danger signs, warning signs and caution signs steer workers away from hazards, OSHA- and ANSI-compliant safety signs do just the opposite: They help people stay healthy and productive without alerting them to risks. The five types of building site safety signs include:
- Admittance signs: Admittance signs alert people to the dangers and consequences of entering a restricted area. Example: “Employees only!”
- Fire safety signs: Fire safety signs point out the locations of firefighting equipment as well as fire exits. Example: “Fire extinguisher.”?
- General safety signs: General safety signs deliver messages. These relate to first aid, medical equipment, sanitation and more. Examples: “Emergency eyewash fountain” or “First aid kit.”
- Non-hazard signs: Non-hazard signs communicate general safety information including directional information in the interest of creating a safer worksite. Examples: “Restrooms” or “Manager’s office.”
- Notice signs: Notice signs convey information about an area, building or equipment. They often detail instructions, maintenance information and procedures not directly related to safety. Example: “No smoking area.”
Positioning your construction site safety signs
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers these guidelines to properly display safety signage on your construction site:
- Danger signs: Your site’s danger signs should be positioned wherever a hazard poses an immediate danger to your team and when special precautions must be taken.
- Caution signs: Post caution signs where they can warn workers of potential risks. Also, use them to advise against unsafe practices.
- Safety signs: Mount safety signs wherever security recommendations and other instructions can help your employees conduct their jobs in a safe manner.
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