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Safety signs have a special significance for occupational health and safety and can be tricky at the same time: they warn of possible dangers and hazards, point out prohibited or necessary behaviors, and can prevent accidents – provided that everyone involved understands what the symbols mean. Below, you will find the definition of safety signs, answers to frequently asked questions, a collection of all standard pictograms, and best practices for using safety signs in work environments and public areas.


What is a Safety Sign?

Safety signs are visual representations that convey relevant safety information for employees and visitors in companies and public buildings. For this purpose, symbols that are as understandable and self-explanatory as possible are used. They point out dangers, ensure safety, or give calls to action.

Meaning of Safety Signs

Safety signs play an essential role, especially in occupational safety and accident protection, because they help prevent accidents or damage to health. In addition, binding rules and standards ensure that you can carry out labeling uniformly, follow company regulations, and that occupational safety and accident protection are reliably provided at all times.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard 1910.145 defines the regulations and standards for respective signs and plaques. This page outlines when safety signs are necessary and specifies the required symbols. These guidelines cover the creation, usage, and application of signs or symbols aimed at identifying and defining potential hazards that, if not indicated, could lead to accidental harm to workers, the public, or property damage.

When is a Safety Sign Required?

Safety signage provides general guidance and suggestions. These signs must have rounded edges and be free from sharp projections, ensuring worker safety. According to Osha, once needed, signs should be placed 'as close as safely possible' to the hazard, providing visibility from a safe distance for workers. After determining the necessity of safety signage, ensuring optimal placement close to the hazard guarantees visibility from a safe distance, aligning with regulations for worker safety.

What Symbols are Required for Workplace Safety?

You need to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to know which symbols should be present in your workplace. The reviews should be done for each activity and workplace to ensure you know of potential hazards. Once this information is available, you'll know where your employees must be reminded of safety. Once your risk assessment is complete, you can determine the specific signage you need by referring to OSHA.

From Prohibition Signs to Hazardous Substance Symbols: Overview of the Most Important Types

Prohibition Signs

In companies, prohibition signs are used to protect employees or other persons from accidents at work on the company premises and to prevent behavior that could trigger a hazard. Properly installed prohibition signs increase occupational safety in the company.

Meaning Shape and Color
Prohibition signs indicate prohibitions or restrictions circular with red border with red crossbar

Mandatory Signs

Secure your company and company premises professionally with mandatory signs for more occupational safety. Mandatory signs quickly convey the necessary information or indications for, for example, machines in production, clean areas in the food industry, motor vehicles, construction sites, and many other work areas where compliance with safety regulations must be ensured.

Meaning Shape and Color
Mandatory signs show indications of the necessary behavior Circular Blue

Warning Signs

Warning signs increase mindfulness and warn of possible dangers and obstacles. They must be visible at the danger points to prevent severe accidents and expensive downtimes. Warning stickers or warning signs are suitable for marking production facilities, lines, warehouses, workshops, or laboratories. For even better understanding, warning signs can be combined with short texts.

Meaning Shape and Color
Warning signs indicate possible dangers equilateral triangle yellow with black border

Emergency Exit Signs

Escape routes and emergency exits must be clearly marked, easily recognizable, and visible even in the dark. Rescue signs provide quick orientation in an emergency. Among other things, long-glow signs are suitable for keeping your escape routes, which show employees and visitors a safe escape route in an emergency. The signage of critical emergency facilities, such as "emergency telephone" or "defibrillator," is also part of the rescue marking.

Meaning Shape and Color
Rescue signs show the way to rescue equipment or facilities Green Square


Marking with fire protection signs and fire protection signs is essential to ensure correct behavior during a fire. Because in the event of a fire, every second counts, fire protection signs can often make the difference between life and death. Effectively implement operational fire protection and mark critical equipment such as fire extinguishers, fire doors, fire detectors, etc., to increase safety in your company.

Meaning Shape and Color
Fire protection signs provide information on aids and what to do in the event of a fire Red Square with White Edge


OSHA has updated the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) by introducing new requirements for labeling hazardous chemicals. These revisions aim to enhance chemical classification and labeling accuracy and uniformity, improving worker understanding. These changes provide workers with more precise information on safely handling hazardous chemicals, reducing the risk of injuries and illnesses caused by exposure to these substances.

Meaning Shape and Color
Labelling and Classification of Hazardous Substances and Chemicals Red-bordered diamond with black symbol on white background

Where to Put Safety Signs and How to Ensure They're Easy to See

According to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z535.2-2011 (R2017), safety sign placement is critical to effective hazard communication. These guidelines emphasize the necessity of situating safety signs near potential hazards. Safety and fire safety equipment signs must be visible and placed near the corresponding equipment for immediate reference during emergencies. Furthermore, considering environmental conditions is essential; signs should be positioned where they won't fade or sustain damage, maintaining their legibility and effectiveness over time. Adequate illumination or retroreflective properties are recommended to ensure clear visibility under normal operating conditions. Supplemental lighting might be necessary if the illumination is insufficient or safety colors aren't distinctly visible. When illumination interruptions are possible, employing photoluminescent and retroreflective materials or providing emergency lighting becomes essential. It's important to note that the placement of safety signs should not distract attention from the hazard itself, ensuring that they serve as clear indicators without creating confusion. Avoiding placement on or near movable objects is also advised to maintain consistent visibility and prevent potential relocation or obstruction of the safety message.

Best Practices for Using Safety Signs in Work Environments and Public Spaces

Below are best practices and tips for using safety signs in work environments and public areas.

Change Location

After a certain period, employees are so familiar with the safety signs that they can only be seen in the background. To avoid this "sign blindness," safety experts recommend changing the location of the signs from time to time so that the safety message remains at the forefront.

Avoid Accumulation

Keep things simple by distributing the signs sensibly within an area and avoiding a pile of signs. Too many signs in a pile overwhelm employees with information and make them less likely to look closely.

Regular Training

Conduct regular refresher training to ensure each employee is familiar with the symbols and meanings. Remember that safety signs only work if everyone understands them.

Incident Reporting

Often, more minor, safety-relevant incidents, in particular, are poorly documented or not documented at all. Therefore, report any occupational safety incidents to your responsible HSE manager - this increases the probability of avoiding the source of error in the future by installing new safety signs.

Consistently Check Hazards

Regular risk assessments are indispensable for occupational safety. They are used to check which hazards are associated with a particular activity in the company. Therefore, consistently check where hazards arise in the company and limit them to a minimum with the help of safety labels.

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The specialist information on this page has been compiled carefully and to the best of our knowledge and belief. Nevertheless, DENIOS Inc cannot assume any warranty or liability of any kind, whether in contract, tort or otherwise, for the topicality, completeness and correctness either towards the reader or towards third parties. The use of the information and content for your own or third party purposes is therefore at your own risk. In any case, please observe the locally and currently applicable legislation.

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