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Caution Signage: Frequently Asked Questions and Standards

Q. Is there a specific caution symbol?

A.

While there is no specific symbol to depict caution, caution signs often have the universal safety alert symbol - a yellow triangle with a black outline containing an exclamation point. This symbol is also used in warning and danger signs, particularly ANSI compliant signs.

Q. How do caution signs differ from warning and danger signs?

A.

aution, warning and danger are safety signs specific to different workplace hazard levels. While caution signs denote a potentially hazardous situation that can lead to minor or moderate injury if not avoided, danger signs indicate an immediate hazard with the potential of causing serious injury or even death. 

Warning signs are meant for hazards that fall somewhere between caution and danger signs in terms of severity. In addition to usage and hazard severity, these three safety signs also differ in their formats and the colors used for each. 

Q. How do I decide where to install Caution and other safety signage?

A.

According to OSHA standard 1910.145, safety signs should be placed as close to the hazard as safely possible and in a way that workers can see and read the signs from a distance. The signal words like caution should be readable from a distance of at least five feet. This is so that workers can be made aware of the hazard and can prepare for it before being exposed. 

The placement of signs should not create a distraction or turn into a hazard. Avoid placing safety signs on or next to movable objects such as windows, doors, etc. 

Q. Are ANSI safety signage requirements different from OSHA’s?

A.

 In most cases, according to ANSI and OSHA guidelines all businesses, big and small, are required to be aware of their respective workplace hazards and risks, effectively communicate these to all employees, and comply with all applicable safety regulations as set forth by OSHA. ANSI sets the standards and guidelines for safety signage that is enforced by OSHA. 

While 29 CFR 1910.145 covers signage for identifying hazards, when to use which safety signs, and design requirements for these, the ANSI Z535 standard provides guidance on aspects such as sign and label colors, signal words, letter size and style, and signage placement. Since OSHA standards usually factor in ANSI specifications, businesses should ensure compliance with OSHA. When OSHA requirements are missing, ANSI guidelines should be followed. 

Q. Why is the color yellow often used for safety signs?

A.

Yellow is a preferred color for safety signs as it appears brightest to our eyes in comparison to most other colors and can also be seen by most color-blind people. Additionally, signs with a yellow background and black text are highly visible and easily readable. 

Q. How are safety signs standardized?

A.
The standardization of safety signs is done by different organizations depending on the industry, specialization, and authority level. ANSI, OSHA, NEMA, NFPA, and ISO have their specific guidelines and standards, with OSHA standards being rather comprehensive and covering most workplaces and businesses.

Q. How does OSHA classify safety signs?

A.

OSHA’s safety signage is divided into three categories - danger, caution, and safety instructions. Danger signs indicate immediate danger that warrants special precautions. Red, black, and white colors should be used for these signs. 

Caution signs warn against potential hazards or unsafe practices. These signs should have a yellow background and black panel with yellow letters. Letters on the yellow background must be black.

Safety instruction signs are used to give general instructions and suggestions regarding safety measures. These signs must have a white background, green panel, and white letters. Letters on the white background must be black.

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