No, danger and caution signs cannot be used interchangeably as each is designed for a specific hazard severity communication. Where danger signs are meant to indicate immediate danger (such as high voltage or open pit) and the requirement of special precautions, caution signs communicate potential hazards and/or warn against unsafe practices. Ignoring danger signs can lead to a serious injury or even death while ignoring caution signs can result in moderate or minor injuries.
As stated in OSHA standard 1910.145(c)(1)(i), there shall not be any variation in the type of design of signs that warn against specific dangers and radiation hazards. Uniformity in design is a means to facilitate easy identification and efficient communication of danger.
OSHA requires that danger and other safety signs be worded such that the message conveyed is concise and easily readable. The signs should not leave any room for misinterpretation or confusion, and should provide information sufficient enough for the sign to be easily understood. The facts communicated should be accurate and the sign should make a positive suggestion.
A danger sign is a permanent or temporary notice or placard providing a warning or safety instructions for workers or the general public who may be exposed to hazards. Type of a sign and often used temporarily, a danger tag is usually made of paper, pasteboard, card, plastic, or other material and indicates a hazardous condition.
As stated in OSHA standard 1910.145(f)(3), tags should be used to prevent accidental injury or illness to employees who are exposed to actual or potential hazards that are out of the ordinary, unexpected, or not readily apparent. Tags are not required where signs, guarding or other means of protection are being used.
The OSHA standard 1910.144 identifies red and yellow as safety colors for marking physical hazards. Red is used for the identification of fire protection equipment and apparatus, danger, and stop bars and buttons/switches.
The color yellow is used to designate caution and mark physical hazards such as tripping, falling, striking against, etc.
Although OSHA does not mandate that danger signs have symbols, symbols are often used on danger signs to aid the communication of hazards. On the other hand, safety symbols are an essential element of the ANSI safety sign format and fall under hazard alert, mandatory action, prohibition, and informational categories. Signs with symbols are believed to convey the required information quickly and in a way that it can be understood sans language constraints.
The ANSI safety signs have three crucial elements, each serving a distinct purpose.
The safety headers and signal words such as danger, caution, notice, etc. communicate hazard severity.
Safety symbols and pictograms help convey the sign message to a wider audience, irrespective of the language.
Lastly, Sign Legends describe the hazard or policy by communicating the hazard type, how to avoid it, and the consequences of not avoiding it.