An unfortunate aspect of growing up is learning that danger lurks at every corner. An even more unfortunate part of running a business is having to worry about every potential hazard so that none of your employees get hurt (or worse).
After all, no one wants to have an injury on their conscience or a lawsuit on their desk. And that’s where safety signs and symbols come into play.
In this Simple Guide to Safety Signs & Symbols, we’ll go through everything you need to know to effectively label potential hazards in the workplace, avoid any employee injuries or deaths, and avoid the consequent legal fallout.
And we’ll start with the most obvious question.
What are Safety Signs and Symbols?
Safety signs and symbols are often color-coded labels used to communicate a variety of safety instructions or danger warnings in an understandable way, regardless of language.
They’re used to help employees and civilians navigate your workplace safely and can be particularly useful in situations where rapid response is necessary.
Types of Safety Signs and Symbols
Safety signs and symbols can vary greatly in color, shape, meaning, use of words, etc. It’s vital to ensure that your employees understand this classification and labeling to avoid unfortunate accidents.
And so, in this section, we’ll take a look at the 7 types of safety signs and symbols, along with their explanations and some examples.
1. Warning signs
These signs indicate potential hazards that can cause injury or death. They are usually triangular with a black border and a yellow background.
Examples: Danger High Voltage, Caution Slippery Floor, Warning Radiation Area…
2. Prohibition signs
These signs indicate actions that are not permitted or prohibited. They are usually circular with a red border and a white background.
Examples: No Smoking, Do Not Enter, No Photography…
3. Mandatory signs
These signs indicate actions that are required or mandatory. They are usually circular with a blue background and a white symbol or text.
Examples: Wear Safety Glasses, Use Handrail, Hard Hat Area…
4. Emergency signs
These signs indicate the location of emergency equipment or facilities, such as fire extinguishers, emergency exits, and first aid kits. They are usually rectangular with a white background and green text or symbols.
Examples: Emergency Exit, Fire Alarm, First Aid Station…
5. Informational signs
These signs provide information that is relevant to the safety and health of individuals in the area. They are usually rectangular with a white background and black text or symbols.
Examples: Authorized Personnel Only, No Parking, Caution Hearing Protection Required…
6. Fire safety signs
These signs provide information about fire safety, such as the location of fire extinguishers, fire hoses, and fire alarms. They are usually rectangular with a red background and white text or symbols.
Examples: Fire Exit, Fire Hose, Fire Alarm Pull Station….
7. Hazardous materials signs
These signs provide information about the presence of hazardous materials and the precautions that should be taken. They are usually diamond-shaped with a white background and red or yellow text or symbols.
Examples: Flammable, Radioactive, Corosive…
How Do Safety Signs & Symbols Help Prevent Injuries in Different Industries?
So you’ve got a good idea of the types of safety signs and symbols that exist. But how do they play into the workplace H&S of different industries? In this section, we’ll give you a few examples of where and how these pictograms can help prevent injuries or even death.
Construction Site at places of entry, or Wear a Hard Hat, and Warning: Falling Objects at the site itself.
Like every example listed here, the manufacturing industry is host to a range of potential hazards employees need to deal with daily.
Depending on the items you produce and the tools and materials you use to do so, safety signs and symbols offer invaluable information on how best to avoid injury.
These can include Danger: Moving Parts, Warning: Explosives, and Warning: Toxic.
Unlike some other industries, field service is unique in that employees don’t work at a single, specific site but can visit multiple on a daily basis.
Therefore, signs and safety symbols possibly play an even more important role for field workers, as they’re often not familiar with the location they’re visiting at any possible time.
Safety checklists or digital workflows can help technicians to ensure they follow all safety standards.
Real life example of following safety rules with digital questionnaires
One effective way to enhance safety compliance is by using digital checklists, which can streamline communication and reduce delays.
A compelling example of this is the story of Stony Valley, where going paperless revolutionized their safety processes and improved efficiency.
At Stony Valley, the Safety Department faced challenges with delays and missing paperwork when relying on paper-only copies for safety reports.
The time lag between entering information in the field and accessing it in the office could stretch for weeks, causing potential safety risks to linger unresolved.
However, Stony Valley decided to embrace digital checklists to revolutionize their safety processes. With the adoption of digital checklists, the time delay was reduced to mere minutes.
Field workers could now input safety information in real-time, and the Safety Department could access it promptly.
The use of digital checklists eliminated the risk of paperwork going missing, as all data was stored digitally, ensuring easy retrieval and analysis.
What Should You Do Next?
So now you’re familiar with all the types of possible safety signs and symbols, their use, and even which industries might benefit from the most.
But what should you do next? For your and your employees’ good, it’s best if you take these (possibly) new learnings and reevaluate your current workplace.
The first step to creating a safe working environment is understanding the potential hazards your employees may encounter.
And to gain that understanding, you need to carry out a hazard assessment, which will not only reveal threats but also help remove them altogether or at least prevent them. We discuss this topic in more depth in our Simple Guide to PPE.
But if you want to get started early and dutifully prepare for this process, try looking at your inspection tools first, like surveys and checklists.
Surveys are perfect for gathering data from different people and departments in your company. Meanwhile, checklists will streamline your inspection process by clearly outlining what you’re looking for and making it easy to track all variables.