Training

Signs of the Times

Danger signs can only protect your workers when your workers know what the signs mean—and what precautions they should take in response to such warning signs.

Training on accident signs and tags is a good candidate for periodic refresher training. Here’s a basic overview you can use for such training.

OSHA has established regulations for safety signs to warn workers of dangers in their workplace. For example:

  • The signal word on signs should be readable at a minimum distance of 5 feet.
  • Tags should be securely attached and as close as possible to the hazards they warn against.

There are several different kinds of signal word signs. Familiarize your workers with what the words and colors mean.


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DANGER signs identify a hazard that presents a threat of death.

  • Color: White letters in a red oval on a black background.
  • DANGER signs may carry a “major message” as well. Examples are:
    • HAZARDOUS AREA, AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
    • HIGH VOLTAGE, KEEP OUT
    • FLAMMABLE GAS
  • Red is used for fire apparatus and equipment, safety containers for flammables, and such safety devices as switches for emergency stopping of machinery, stop bars, and buttons.

CAUTION signs warn about potential hazards or to take precautions.

  • Color: Yellow letters against a black background.
  • Major messages include HARD HAT AREA, EYE PROTECTION REQUIRED, or WATCH FOR FORKLIFTS.
  • Yellow is often used for such physical dangers as slipping, tripping, falling, striking against, and pinch hazards.

WARNING signs show a hazard level between DANGER and CAUTION.

  • Color: Orange background with contrasting lettering or symbols.
  • Examples include CONSTRUCTION AREA or HIGH VOLTAGE.

BIOLOGICAL HAZARD signs show actual or potential presence of an infectious agent.

  • Color: Fluorescent orange or orange-red with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color.
  • They identify equipment, containers, rooms, experimental animals, or combinations that contain or are contaminated with hazardous biological agents.

SAFETY INSTRUCTION signs are used for general safety instructions.

  • Color: White background with a green panel and white lettering.
  • Some examples are SAFETY FIRST, BE CAREFUL, or THINK SAFETY.

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Remind workers that accident prevention signs and tags are in place to protect everyone. They must obey them to stay safe.

Why It Matters

  • Safety signs and tags can help prevent accidents—as long as your workers know what the colors and words mean.
  • Ensure your workers know what the markings mean and what precautions to take in areas marked with signs.
  • Conduct refresher training regularly with your workers about the warning signs in your workplace so they don’t stop seeing or heeding the signs.

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