The great American road trip is filled with roadside attractions, beef jerky, good music, and the occasional car trouble. No country does it better. The options are plenty for those with a few days and a few extra dollars burning a hole in their pockets. Along the way, a variety of signs are placed to warn drivers of specific hazards; animal crossing, high wind, falling rocks, and temporary work zones are just some examples. These signs heighten awareness and put the driver on the lookout to reduce danger. Now what about the workplace? Using warning signs to reduce hazards for employees is an OSHA requirement, but it’s often overlooked. Do you know how to comply with 29 CFR 1910.145?
For General Industry, 1910.145 specifies “the design, application, and use of signs or symbols…that define specific hazards that could harm workers or the public, or both, or to property damage.” It covers safety signs for all employer sites except for plant bulletin boards or safety posters. Signs for public streets, highways, and railroads are exempt from the standard.
The standard takes steps to clearly identify dangers universally no matter the company. Just as a yield sign looks the same in Texas as it does in California, employer safety signs should be equally uniform based on the hazard presented.
Standard 1910.145(b) defines signs as warnings or safety instructions written on a surface to protect industrial workers or the public who may be exposed to hazards. Signs must have rounded or blunt corners, free of sharp projections. The fastening device (such as bolts) cannot be used in a way that would constitute a hazard. News releases, safety posters, or bulletins are not included as they are displayed for employee education and do not need to be in the area where the hazard is located.
Hazard signage should:
- Have concise, easy-to-read wording.
- Contain enough information to be understood.
- Use positive suggestions.
- Contain accurate facts about the hazard.
Main Types of Signage
Danger Sign: If the danger is not avoided, it will cause death or serious injury.
Danger signs warn of specific hazards that present the greatest risk to employees. OSHA recommends that danger signs be red or predominantly red, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color, such as white or black. Danger signs cannot have variation in the type of design for warning of specific dangers and for radiation hazards. Employees must also be instructed what the danger sign means, the significance, and that special precautions are needed to reduce risk.
Caution Sign: If precaution is not taken, it could cause minor or moderate injury.
The caution sign is used to warn against potential hazards or unsafe practices. Employees need to be instructed that the caution sign represents a possible hazard and which precautions should be taken. The sign needs to have a yellow background, and the panel with the information should be black with yellow letters. Letters placed on the yellow background must be black.
Biological Hazard Sign: Used when a biological hazard may come into contact with an employee or member of the public.
This sign warns of the actual or potential presence of a biohazard. It is signified by one unique warning symbol to identify biological substances that may pose a threat to the health of living organisms. For this standard, biohazard agents include only infectious agents that are a danger to the well-being of humans. The sign is predominantly orange with contrasting color for the symbol, usually black.
Safety Instruction Sign: Used when general instructions and suggestions relative to safety measures are needed.
Safety instruction signs are placed to give safety instruction or suggestions, such as “All vehicles must back in to park” or “Lift no more than 50 pounds.” They are white signs with a green panel with white letters. Any letter or symbol on the white background must be black. These signs are often used to notify employees that personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn in an area without identifying a specific hazard.
Per 1910.145(d)(10), employers must place a reflective emblem on any vehicle designed to move 25mph or less on public roads. The emblem must be a fluorescent yellow-orange triangle with a dark red reflective border. The fluorescent triangle must be visible for nighttime as well as daytime exposure.
Accident Prevention Tags
Tags are included in 1910.145, but not apply to construction or agriculture. These tags are:
- Used for accident prevention.
- Used to identify hazardous conditions and provide a message to employees.
- Used until the hazard is eliminated or hazardous operation is complete.
- Not needed in areas where signs, guarding, or other means of protection is utilized.
Tags per 1910.145 must contain either a signal word or major message. If using a signal word, it must be “Danger,” “Caution,” “Biological Hazard,” or “BIOHAZARD,” or the universally recognized biological hazard symbol. The signal word must be readable at a minimum distance of five feet away or more depending on the hazard presented.
If using a major message, it needs to indicate the specific hazardous condition or the instruction that needs to be communicated. The major message can be pictographs, text, or a combination of both. The main thing with these is that whatever method is used, all employees with the potential to be exposed would be able to understand the tag and know of the danger the hazard presents. This should be further communicated through employee training on these workplace tags and the special precautions needed. They must also be placed as close to the respective hazard as possible in a manner that prevents unintentional removal or loss of the tag.
Main Types of Tags
The main types of hazard tags include:
- Danger Tags: Used in major hazard situations where an immediate hazard presents the threat of death or serious injury to employees.
- Warning Tags: Used to represent a hazard in between danger and caution. This is for medium severity hazards that could cause serious injury.
- Caution Tags: Used in minor hazard situations where a lesser risk of employee injury exists. This tag can warn of a non-immediate or potential hazard, or an unsafe practice.
- Biological Hazard Tags: Used to identify the actual or potential presence of a biological hazard, including any item or area that contains or is contaminated with hazardous biological agents.
Per 1910.145(f)(9), other tags can be used in addition to the ones above at the worksite. They can be used if there is no conflicting messages and they do not detract from the signal word or major message of the required tag.
OSHA uses 29 CFR 1910.145 to ensure that there is uniformity in hazard recognition. Employees have a right to be warned of any hazard they could be exposed to. For more information on how to protect employees from dangers and increase hazard recognition, 360training.com offers outreach courses for the General Industry. Choose from either the 10-hour or 30-hour course. Training the team ensures you’re doing everything to create a safe and healthy workplace.