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Top Safety Signs That Could Save a Life

By Kevin Fipps

It’s easy to overlook potential hazards that can lead to injuries or, in extreme cases, fatalities. Creating a safer work environment begins with awareness and the proactive identification of risks. To help navigate the maze of potential dangers, here are top life-saving signs that can prevent the most common causes of workplace injuries and deaths.

1. Caution: Drive Carefully

On-road traffic accidents pose significant risks to workers who commute or operate vehicles as part of their job responsibilities. Proper identification and signage of on-road hazards are essential for preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of employees.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics1 (BLS) reported in the year 2022:

  • 1,369 workplace deaths
  • 34,280 road injuries
  • 38% on-the-job deaths

Efforts to reduce transportation-related accidents include seat belt campaigns, driver training, and safety recognition.

Here are some key considerations for implementing work and jobsite safety signage to reduce  traffic accidents:

Speed limit signs: Setting and enforcing speed limits on workplace roads and parking lots can significantly reduce the risk of collisions. Speed limit signs should be clearly visible and accompanied by road markings to indicate restricted speed zones.

Traffic control signs: Stop signs, yield signs, and other traffic control signs should be installed at intersections and high-traffic areas to regulate the flow of vehicles and prevent accidents.

Pedestrian crosswalk signs: Designated pedestrian crosswalks should be marked with visible signage to alert drivers to pedestrian crossings and encourage them to yield to foot traffic.

Work zone signs: Signs indicating work zones and construction areas help alert drivers to potential hazards and reduce the risk of accidents in areas where roadwork or maintenance activities are taking place.

Road surface condition signs: Signs indicating road surface conditions, such as wet or icy conditions, help drivers adjust their driving behavior accordingly and reduce the risk of skidding or losing control of their vehicles.

Vehicle safety signs: Signs reminding drivers to perform vehicle safety checks, such as checking tire pressure or ensuring proper load securement, help prevent mechanical failures that could lead to accidents on the road.

Driver safety reminders: Signs displaying safety messages, such as reminders to wear seat belts, avoid distracted driving, and maintain a safe following distance, promote safe driving practices among employees who operate vehicles as part of their job duties.

2. Warning: Fall Protection Required in This Area

Fall protection violations have been the most common OSHA citation for 13 consecutive years. In 2022, BLS reported falls to lower levels resulted in:

  • 700 deaths
  • 64,505 injuries

Effective fall protection programs include both equipment and training.

Safety Signage to Reduce Fall to Lower-Level Injuries:

Falls to lower levels remain a leading cause of workplace fatalities and injuries, emphasizing the critical need for preventive measures to protect workers from such hazards. Proper identification and signage of fall hazards are essential components of a comprehensive fall protection program. Here are some key considerations for implementing safety signage to reduce fall to lower-level injuries:

Elevated areas: Prominently displayed warning signs should be installed in areas where fall hazards exist, such as elevated work platforms, scaffolds, or rooftops. These signs serve as visual reminders for employees to exercise caution and use fall protection equipment when working at heights.

Safety harness required: Signs indicating the requirement for safety harnesses or other fall protection measures should be placed at access points to elevated work areas. These signs remind workers to wear appropriate fall protection equipment and undergo proper training to prevent falls.

Guardrails and safety nets: Signs highlighting the presence of guardrails, safety nets, or other passive fall protection systems help identify areas where additional safety measures are in place to prevent falls. These signs reassure employees of the workplace’s commitment to their safety and encourage compliance with safety protocols.

Clearance height: In areas with low clearance heights or overhead obstructions, signs indicating clearance heights help prevent head injuries and other accidents resulting from inadvertent contact with overhead objects. These signs should be installed at entry points to areas with limited overhead clearance.

3. Security Notice: Restricted Area – Authorized Personnel Only

In a 2022 report, the BLS reported workplace violence resulted in:

  • 849 deaths
  • 124,040 injuries

Workplace violence is preventable by fostering a culture of security. Security signage encourages employees to report suspicious activity, creating a safer environment for all.

Safety Signage to Reduce Workplace Violence:

Workplace violence poses a serious threat to employees’ safety and well-being, necessitating proactive measures to prevent incidents and protect personnel. Proper identification and signage of security measures are essential components of a comprehensive workplace violence prevention program. Here are some key considerations for implementing safety signage to reduce workplace violence:

Restricted access: Clear signage indicating restricted areas and authorized personnel-only zones helps control access to sensitive areas and prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the premises. These signs should be prominently displayed at entry points and enforced through access control measures.

Visitor management: Signs outlining visitor management procedures, such as checking in at the reception desk or wearing visitor badges, help monitor and regulate visitor access to the workplace. These signs should be displayed at entry points and supported by staff training on visitor handling protocols.

Emergency contact information: Signs providing emergency contact information, including phone numbers for security personnel, local law enforcement, and emergency services, help employees quickly report incidents or suspicious activity. These signs should be posted in visible locations throughout the workplace.

Zero tolerance policy: Signs reinforcing the organization’s zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence serve as a reminder to employees that violent behavior will not be tolerated. These signs should be displayed prominently in common areas and reinforced through employee training and awareness programs.

De-escalation techniques: Signs outlining de-escalation techniques and conflict resolution strategies empower employees to defuse potentially volatile situations and respond effectively to aggressive behavior. These signs should be part of comprehensive training programs on workplace violence prevention.

Anonymous reporting: Encouraging anonymous reporting of concerns or incidents related to workplace violence provides employees with a safe and confidential means of seeking help or reporting suspicious behavior. These signs should include contact information for anonymous reporting channels, such as hotlines or online reporting platforms.

4. Caution: Respirator Must Be Worn When Working with Chemicals

Exposure to harmful substances can have long-term health effects. According to BLS, there were:

  • 586 deaths
  • 300,000 workplace injuries related to exposure to hazardous substances.

Signs and labels remind employees to use protective gear, minimizing the risk of an accident. HazCom labels are also important when working with or transporting chemicals and compounds.

Reduce Injuries and Deaths from Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals:

Exposure to hazardous chemicals poses significant risks to workers’ health and safety, making it essential to implement effective measures to prevent accidents and minimize exposure. Proper identification and signage of chemical hazards are critical components of a comprehensive safety program. Here are some key considerations for implementing safety signage to reduce injuries and deaths from exposure to hazardous chemicals:

Hazard warning: Prominently displayed hazard warning signs alert employees to the presence of hazardous chemicals and potential risks associated with their use or storage. These signs should use universally recognized symbols and color codes to convey specific hazards, such as toxicity, flammability, or corrosiveness.

Personal protective equipment (PPE): Signs reminding employees to wear appropriate PPE, such as respirators, gloves, goggles, and protective clothing, when working with hazardous chemicals reinforce the importance of personal protection and minimize the risk of exposure-related injuries.

Chemical storage: Properly labeled chemical storage areas are essential for ensuring safe handling and storage of hazardous substances. Signs indicating the contents of storage containers, as well as any associated hazards or precautions, help prevent accidents and facilitate emergency response in the event of a spill or release.

Emergency shower and eyewash: Indicating the location of emergency shower and eyewash stations is critical for facilitating prompt decontamination in the event of chemical exposure. These signs should be prominently displayed and clearly visible from all areas where hazardous chemicals are handled or stored.

Spill response: Signs outlining spill response procedures and the availability of spill kits help employees respond effectively to chemical spills and minimize the risk of exposure to hazardous substances. These signs should include instructions for containing and cleaning up spills safely and should be placed in areas where spills are likely to occur.

5. Warning: Construction Area – Hard Hat and High-Visibility Vest Required

Falling tools or equipment pose a significant risk. In 2022, the BLS said there were:

  • 484 fatalities
  • 223,925 injuries involving workers being struck by objects

A clear “Wear Your Hard Hat” sign serves as a visual reminder for employees to protect their heads, preventing serious head injuries. Check out more ways to improve construction site safety.

Reduce Struck by Falling Object Injuries and Deaths:

In construction and industrial settings, the risk of being struck by falling objects is a significant concern, leading to numerous fatalities and injuries each year. Proper identification and signage of areas prone to falling objects, and reminders to wear PPE, are critical for preventing accidents and ensuring workers’ safety. Here are some key considerations to reduce struck by falling object injuries:

Hard hat required: Prominently displayed signs indicating the requirement to wear hard hats in designated areas remind employees to protect their heads from falling objects. These signs should be installed in areas where overhead work is performed or where the risk of falling objects is present.

High-visibility vests: Signs indicating the requirement to wear high-visibility vests help increase visibility and reduce the risk of workers being struck by moving vehicles or equipment. These signs should be installed in areas with vehicular traffic or where workers may be exposed to moving machinery.

Tool tethering: Signs reminding workers to tether or secure tools and equipment to prevent them from falling should be displayed in areas where tools are used at height. Tethering tools reduce the risk of dropped objects and minimizes the potential for injuries to workers below.

Overhead hazard: Signs warning of overhead hazards, such as suspended loads or overhead machinery, should be installed in areas where such risks exist. These signs serve as visual reminders for workers to stay clear of overhead hazards and take precautions to avoid being struck by falling objects.

6. Danger: No Pedestrian Traffic

Pedestrian accidents in workplace areas can result in fatalities and injuries. Clear signage indicating areas where pedestrian traffic is prohibited helps prevent accidents and ensures the safety of both pedestrians and vehicle operators. In 2022, the BLS reported pedestrians struck on roadways totaled:

  • 325 deaths
  • 8,485 injuries in the workplace

Visual communication can warn both drivers and pedestrians to use greater caution in areas where such traffic intersects. Warehouse forklift traffic control can also benefit from effective floor marking.

Workplace Traffic Safety Signs

In addition to pedestrian safety, workplace traffic signs play a crucial role in reducing the risk of accidents involving vehicles. These signs are essential for directing traffic flow, highlighting potential hazards, and promoting safe driving practices. Here are some key considerations:

Speed limit signs: Setting and enforcing speed limits within the workplace can significantly reduce the risk of collisions. Speed limit signs should be clearly visible and accompanied by road markings to indicate restricted speed zones.

Stop signs and yield signs: Intersection points and areas with high traffic volume should be equipped with stop signs and yield signs to regulate the flow of vehicles and prevent accidents.

Directional signs: Clear directional signs help drivers navigate complex work environments, reducing confusion and minimizing the likelihood of wrong-way driving or unintended detours.

Crosswalk signs: Designated pedestrian crosswalks should be marked with visible signage to alert drivers to pedestrian crossings and encourage them to yield to foot traffic.

Loading zone signs: Loading and unloading areas should be clearly marked with signage to alert drivers to potential hazards and ensure the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians.

Visibility enhancements: In areas with poor visibility, such as blind corners or intersections, additional safety measures such as convex mirrors or warning signs can improve awareness and reduce the risk of accidents.

Training and awareness: Proper training on workplace traffic safety protocols, including the meaning of signage and adherence to traffic rules, is essential for all employees, particularly those operating vehicles or working near traffic zones.

7. Danger: Arc Flash and Shock Hazards

According to the BLS, in 2022 contact with electricity caused:

  • 145 workplace deaths
  • 1,980 injuries

This high rate of deaths to injuries highlights the extreme hazard electrified equipment represents. Arc flash warning signs alert employees to hazards and floor marking signs and tape communicate electrical safety zones.

Safety Signage to Reduce Arc Flash and Shock Injuries:

Arc flash and shock hazards present serious risks to workers in environments where electrical equipment is present. Proper identification and signage of these hazards are critical for preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of personnel. Here are some key considerations to reduce arc flash and shock injuries:

Arc flash warning signs: Prominently displayed arc flash warning signs should be installed in areas where arc flash hazards exist, such as near electrical panels or equipment. These signs alert employees to the potential danger of arc flashes and remind them to take appropriate precautions, such as wearing PPE and following safe work practices.

Electrical safety zones: Floor marking signs and tape can be used to delineate electrical safety zones around equipment or areas where arc flash hazards may occur. These markings serve as visual cues to remind employees to exercise caution and maintain a safe distance from energized equipment.

Lockout/tagout procedures: In addition to signage, proper lockout/tagout procedures should be implemented to de-energize equipment and prevent accidental contact with live electrical circuits during maintenance or repair work. Clear signage indicating lockout/tagout procedures and requirements helps ensure compliance and prevent injuries.

PPE Signs: Signs reminding employees to wear appropriate PPE, such as arc-rated clothing, gloves, and face shields, are essential for reinforcing the importance of personal protection when working with or near energized equipment.

8. Caution: Wet Floor

While falls to lower levels account for more deaths in 2022, the BLS reported that slips and trips caused:

  • 144 deaths
  • 207,200 injuries

Slippery, uneven, and cluttered surfaces are the most common causes of slips, trips, and falls. A simple “Wet Floor” sign can alert employees to potential hazards, prompting them to proceed with caution and avoid unnecessary accidents.

Safety Signage to Reduce Slips, Trips, and Fall Deaths:

Slips, trips, and falls remain a leading cause of workplace injuries and fatalities, highlighting the importance of effective safety signage and preventive measures. Proper identification and signage of slip and trip hazards are crucial for minimizing the risk of accidents and ensuring the safety of employees. Here are some key considerations for implementing safety signage to reduce slips, trips, and fall deaths:

Wet floor signs: Promptly placing “Wet Floor” signs in areas where floors are wet or slippery can alert employees to potential hazards and encourage them to proceed with caution. These signs should be highly visible and placed in conspicuous locations to effectively communicate the risk of slipping.

Hazard identification signs: In addition to wet floor signs, other hazard identification signs, such as “Caution: Uneven Surface” or “Watch Your Step,” should be used to warn employees of potential trip hazards, such as uneven flooring, loose cables, or cluttered walkways.

Floor markings: Clear floor markings can help delineate safe walking paths and highlight potential hazards, such as steps, ramps, or elevation changes. Brightly colored tape or paint can be used to mark hazardous areas and provide visual cues to employees to exercise caution.

Environmental controls: Environmental controls such as non-slip flooring, handrails, and lighting improvements should be implemented to reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls in the workplace when feasible.

9. Danger: Pinch Point – Watch Your Hands

Machinery-related accidents can have severe consequences, including crush injuries. In 2022, the BLS claimed there were:

  • 142 deaths
  • 59,605 injuries involving pinches, catches, and crushes.

Effective machine guarding helps employees to stay clear of machinery in operation, reducing the risk of accidents. Signs highlighting pinch points serve as a visual reminder for employees to keep their hands clear of moving machinery, reducing the risk of accidents.

Safety Signage to Reduce Pinch Point Injuries:

Pinch points are areas where moving parts come together, posing a significant risk of crushing or caught-in injuries. Proper identification and signage of pinch point hazards are crucial for preventing accidents and ensuring the safety of workers. Here are some key considerations for reducing pinch point injuries:

Pinch point warning signs: Clearly marked pinch point warning signs should be placed in areas where machinery or equipment poses a pinch hazard. These signs alert employees to the potential danger and remind them to exercise caution around moving parts.

Visual cues: In addition to signage, visual cues such as colored markings or stripes can be used to highlight pinch point areas, making them more noticeable to employees and reducing the risk of accidental contact.

Barriers and guards: Physical barriers or guards should be installed to prevent access to pinch point areas and provide an additional layer of protection for workers where feasible. These barriers should be clearly marked with warning signs to reinforce the message of caution.

Training and education: Proper training on pinch point hazards and safe work practices is essential for all employees, particularly those working close to machinery or equipment. Training should include instruction on identifying pinch points, avoiding contact with moving parts, and responding effectively in an emergency.

Regular inspections: Routine inspections of machinery and equipment should be conducted to identify and address any potential pinch point hazards. Employees should be encouraged to report any signs of wear or damage that could increase the risk of accidents.

10. Danger: Explosion/Fire Hazards

In 2022, the BLS reported fires and explosions resulted in:

  • 107 deaths
  • 1,870 injuries

Fire hazard signs remind employees to follow safety protocols, reducing the risk of fires and explosions. If a fire does occur, knowing the exit routes is crucial. Emergency evacuation signs and floor tape guide employees to safety, preventing chaos and potential injuries during emergencies.

Safety Signage to Reduce Fire/Explosion Injuries and Deaths:

Fires and explosions pose significant risks in various work environments, necessitating proactive measures to prevent accidents and ensure the safety of personnel. Proper identification and signage of fire and explosion hazards are essential components of a comprehensive safety program. Here are some key considerations for implementing safety signage to reduce fire and explosion injuries:

Fire hazard signs: Prominently displayed fire hazard signs alert employees to the presence of fire risks, such as flammable materials, combustible gases, or ignition sources. These signs remind workers to follow safety protocols, such as proper storage of hazardous materials and adherence to smoking policies, to minimize the risk of fires.

Explosion hazard signs: Signs indicating explosion hazards, such as the presence of explosive gases or materials, should be installed in areas where such risks exist. These signs serve as visual reminders for employees to handle potentially explosive materials with caution and take appropriate precautions to prevent accidents.

Emergency exit signs: Clearly marked emergency exit signs are essential for guiding employees to safety in a fire or explosion. These signs should be installed at exit points and along evacuation routes, using illuminated or photoluminescent materials for visibility in low-light conditions.

Emergency evacuation routes: Floor markings, signage, and tape can be used to delineate emergency evacuation routes and guide employees to designated assembly areas. These markings should be visible and unobstructed to ensure prompt evacuation during emergencies.

Fire extinguisher location signs: Signs indicating the location of fire extinguishers and other firefighting equipment help employees locate and access these resources quickly in the event of a fire. These signs should be placed near extinguisher cabinets and clearly visible from all areas of the workplace.

Everyday Workplace Safety Practices

Training and drills: Comprehensive training on fire prevention, emergency response procedures, and evacuation protocols should be provided to all employees. Regular fire drills and emergency preparedness exercises help reinforce safety procedures and ensure a prompt and orderly response to workplace incidents.

Training should cover hazard recognition, safe work practices, emergency response procedures, and the importance of adhering to safety signage and procedures.

Regular inspections and maintenance: Routine inspections and maintenance of electrical equipment are essential for identifying and addressing potential hazards before they result in accidents. Employees should be encouraged to report any signs of damage, wear, or malfunction that could increase the risk of arc flash or shock injuries.

Maintenance and housekeeping: Regular maintenance and housekeeping practices are essential for preventing slip and trip hazards. Employers should implement cleaning schedules to promptly address spills and debris and ensure that walkways are kept clear of obstructions.

Training and awareness: Comprehensive training on slip, trip, and fall prevention should be provided to all employees, including proper walking techniques, footwear selection, and hazard recognition. Employees should be encouraged to report any potential hazards they encounter to facilitate prompt remediation.

Safety You Can See

The implementation of clear and effective safety signage is crucial in preventing workplace accidents and saving lives. However, it’s essential to complement these signs with regular training, awareness programs, and a collective commitment to safety from both employers and employees. Remember, a small sign today can make a significant difference tomorrow in ensuring a safer work environment for all.

About the author

Kevin Fipps is a safety professional at Graphic Products based in Portland, Oregon. He has extensive safety industry training and planning experience at multiple global operations. He also authors a monthly safety column called Tips from Fipps. Read more about visual communications and safety at www.duralabel.com/resources.

  1. https://tinyurl.com/mt2739c7

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