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The Critical Importance of Safety Signs in the Workplace

From office buildings to construction sites and manufacturing plants, signs are all around to promote workplace safety. As instant recognizable indicators of potential hazards, safety signs can greatly reduce accidents, injuries, and possible death. Signs are also a useful tool in providing everyday general information, education, and direction to your busy workforce.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have identified three main classifications of mandatory signs in the workplace:

  • Danger signs
  • Caution signs
  • General safety information signs

According to OSHA, improper hazard communications standards or lack of safety signage is the #2 most-cited workplace violation and third most prevalent reason for workplace injuries.

“As indicators of potential hazards, safety signs can greatly reduce accidents, injuries, and possible death.”


What is the Importance of Safety Signs in the Workplace?

    1. Prevents Accidents and Injuries

      First and foremost, safety signage reduces the likelihood of workplace injuries and accidents. Every year, there are about 2.8 million nonfatal workplace accidents or injuries in the United States each year. Many of these cases are preventable by reinforcing proper safety communication and signage. Employees are more alert to workplace hazards and can respond promptly and appropriately when incidents do occur, reducing injuries like slips, falls, struck-by-objects, and electrocution.

      ‘There are about 2.8 million nonfatal workplace accidents and injuries reported in the United States each year.’

    2. Compliance

      Safety signs help ensure compliance with OSHA standards and requirements. In fact, penalties can be passed down to businesses who fail to comply with regulatory safety signage requirements. OSHA 1926.200(a) states that proper signage must be visible at all times when work is being performed in at-risk areas.

    3. Integrity

      The number one responsibility of your operation is the health and safety of your workforce. Safety signs protect employees and support a safe, secure work environment. By staying up-to-date and compliant with OSHA signage standards, your operation demonstrates its value, respect, and commitment to every employee.

    4. Security

      A safety sign’s main function is to keep employees safe, but signs are also used to enforce security. Admittance signs clearly designate a prohibited area in a work environment to unauthorized personnel and help deter any type of theft as well.

    5. Employee and Visitor Education

      Safety signs are effectively used for educational purposes, especially within a manufacturing or engineering environment where dangers are prevalent. In the event of a crisis, ensuring employees are guided appropriately is critical. Also, new employees are often introduced to corporate safety practices through signage, so signs must be concise and clearly communicate the required information.

Important Types of Safety Signs to Have in Your Workplace

As we mentioned, OSHA lists three classifications of safety signs, yet there are a few other important workplace indicators to address. Let’s talk more about these signs and why they are so crucial to the overall safety of your workforce.      

    • Danger Signs

‘High voltage’, dangerous chemicals’, ‘radiation’ – these are all examples of danger signs. Danger signs are the most serious safety sign types defined by OSHA. Danger signs are to be displayed in areas where immediate hazards and risk are (or may be) present. These signs have a distinct shape, color scheme, and have the word “Danger” printed within a red rectangle on the top of the sign.

    • Caution Signs

Caution signs is the second OSHA-official sign category. This sign type is an accident prevention tag, indicating situations that may result in minor to moderate injuries. There are two main design rules that signify caution signs. First, caution signs should contain the command word “Caution” in all-caps with all-black text. Second, caution signage is typically printed on a yellow panel background in an inverted triangle panel shape with a black exclamation mark next to the “Caution” command word.

    • General Safety Signs

The third type of OSHA safety sign category is general safety. General safety signs serve as a reminder of workplace safety rules, best practices, and can direct employees to emergency equipment if needed.

General safety signs use text and pictograms printed in either green or black on a plain white background or white on a green background. This type of safety sign is broad and multifunctional. Workplaces should install general safety signage when any of the following are present:

      • First aid kits
      • Sanitation stations
      • Emergency phones
      • Safety apparel required


Several smaller categories of safety signs include: 

    • Safety Instruction Signs

Safety instruction signs inform workers about workplace safety policies and procedures. This may include shutdown instructions, hygiene practices, or how to operate certain types of equipment. How can you recognize these signs? You can identify a safety instruction sign by the white background with a green upper panel and white lettering.             

    • Admittance Signs

Admittance signs detail who can and cannot enter a certain designated area. These signs clearly stand out and use phrases such as ‘do not enter’, ‘no trespassing’, ‘authorized personnel only’, or similar messaging. 

    • Fire Safety Signs

Fire safety signs identify areas of mandatory fire precaution or prohibition. Fire safety signs have white lettering and fire graphics on a bright red background. 

There are two types of compliant fire signage:

1: Prohibitory fire signs: These are specific prohibition signs stating that no open flames are allowed.

2: Emergency fire fighting equipment: These signs designate where fire fighting equipment is stored, such as fire extinguishers, blankets, smoke masks, and hoses.

Unlike many other safety signs, fire signage does not require a headline such as “Caution” or “Warning.” These signs are typically located near fire alarms, though this is not a requirement.

    • Non-Hazard Signs

Non-hazard signs include workplace traffic signs and safety area directional information. These signs communicate general safety messages such as the nearest exits points and fire assembly points.


Need Help with Safety Signage?

Have questions about safety regulation compliance in your workplace? We’re ready to help! Total Safety’s OSHA compliant employee training programs will help your operation meet compliance, reduce injury, and protect the safe wellbeing of your workforce.


Talk to a Total Safety expert today!