Practically everywhere we go in American society, we see signs. Many signs advertise products or services, but a lot of posted signs provide useful information such as directions and safety warnings. Cautionary signs are vital for protecting people and equipment. Safety signs in the warehouse are also highly important for protecting your workers and visitors from injury or even death.
The importance of safety signage can’t be overstated. Warehouse signs are a highly effective means of conveying necessary information that employees need to perform their daily tasks efficiently and safely. However, warehouse safety signage must do more than provide information. Signage in the warehouse must motivate people to act with safety in mind.
Important Benefits of Safety Signage
Having the right safety signs and markings in your warehouse facility brings you significant benefits. Investing in professionally manufactured safety markings and signage brings you an immeasurable return on investment. These are the top four benefits you’ll get by developing excellent sign policies and procedures as part of your safety program:
1. Reducing Workplace Accidents
There’s a critical correlation between proper workplace signs and accidents. If you develop a safety signage program with uniform and consistent messages clearly posted around your workplace, you’ll significantly benefit through a reduction of accidents. Your rate of personnel injury will drop. So will your loss through equipment and product damage.
2. Increasing Workplace Efficiency
Clear and consistent communication increases your workers’ efficiency. When your employees know what hazards exist and what safety-related performance is expected, they’ll respond with increased productivity through greater workplace efficiency. Professional safety signage contributes to efficiency, and it's hard to put a price on that benefit.
3. Promoting Safety Culture
Your safety culture is another asset that’s difficult to quantify. Safety should be the way you do business in your warehouse. Building a strong safety culture benefits you as a manager, your workers as human beings and your business’ bottom line. A conscious culture that’s committed to safety — rather than being merely compliant — is invaluable. Proper signage is a fundamental part of your company’s safety culture. Excellent signs are an investment with enormous cultural benefits.
4. Protecting From Legal Action
Safety signage standardization became a legal issue when American courts of the 1970s and '80s established a legal framework that held employers responsible for their "duty to warn." Today, employees are protected by workers' compensation should an employer fail to protect workers from injury such as through the use of safety signage. There’s no better way to accomplish safety awareness than having hazards clearly identified and explaining why they exist. Taking proactive steps like posting signs around hazards shows you’re doing due diligence. That protects you legally if something does go wrong.
The Role of Safety Signs
As a warehouse owner, manager or operator, you know that effectively communicating safety information is a critical part of your health and safety program.
Safety signs, visual aids and safety tape are part of your overall communication plan that makes employees and guests aware of hazards in your workplace. Signs and markings play a vital role in making people aware of dangers in the warehouse. They are visual tools that:
- Inform workers, subcontractors and visitors of safety and security issues
- Remind people about potential dangers or hazards and how to avoid them
- Direct everyone towards safe access and egress paths
- Point out locations of safety equipment and muster points
- Reinforce safety program initiatives and your commitment to worker safety
- Prevent injuries that result in lost time and workers' compensation claims
Safety signs play an essential overall role in your company’s safety culture. When you use a systematic approach to warehouse safety signage best practices, you visually demonstrate the value you place on everyone’s safety in and around your warehouse environment. Professional and effective signs are a reflection of your safety commitment. Proper signage is just that important.
However, simply placing safety signs about your warehouse isn’t sufficient. You’ve probably heard the United States Armed Forces term “HUA.” That’s the acronym for “Heard, Understood and Acknowledged” when responding to a direction or order. Perhaps “SUA" — for "Seen, Understood and Acknowledged” — is more applicable to your warehouse. After all, signs are meant to be seen and then be understood and acknowledged.
The best safety signs do all three. You might be wondering how to achieve an effective safety sign program. Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has already done most of the groundwork for you.
OSHA Warehouse Signage Requirements
OSHA clearly lays out their requirements and guidance for workplace safety signs in their publication 29 CFR 1910.145. These regulations identify the best practices and practical suggestions for signs, tags and markings that identify potential dangers and hazards in American workplaces like your warehouse. OSHA summarizes these regulations’ intention as signs, tags and markings to be used to prevent accidental injury or illness to employees exposed to hazardous or potentially hazardous conditions, equipment or operations which are out of the ordinary, unexpected or not readily apparent.
To help achieve successful sign implementation, OSHA adheres to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) parameters concerning signage outlined in the ANSI Z535 Standard. Combined, the OSHA and ANSI information helps you build a warehouse sign and marking program that protects your people and conforms with the law.
While OSHA lays out suggested designs and formats for workplace signs, ANSI identifies universal symbols and colors used in signs that are globally seen, understood and acknowledged despite language barriers. ANSI standards use pictographs and alert symbols while OSHA prescribes details such as sign headings, wording content and sizes.
Types of Warehouse Safety and Informational Signs
OSHA and ANSI classify workplace safety signs into three main categories. These are severity classifications for potential and existing hazards. In order of priority are:
1. Danger Signs
This is the most severe sign category. Danger signs signal real and serious situations that could result in significant bodily injury or death. They’re not to be taken lightly, and you should reserve them for critical areas such as high voltage situations, mobile equipment where visibility is limited or unprotected points like confined spaces or where potential falls might happen. OSHA and ANSI both prescribe danger signs to have the trigger word DANGER in white letters on a bright red background. Danger signs also have a symbol depicting the precise hazard such as a moving forklift or a lightning bolt.
2. Warning Signs
These notices are a step down from danger signs. They’re prescribed where a hazardous threat could potentially exist, whereas danger signs identify a consistently occurring condition. This doesn’t mean that a threat can’t be serious like bodily harm or potential fatality. Warning signs are advisory and signal anyone in the area to be aware of a hazard and take appropriate precautions. You’ll recognize OSHA and ANSI warning sign compliance by their black lettered WARNING on an orange background. As with danger signs, warning advisories have a corresponding symbol with appropriate directions.
3. Caution Signs
You’ll use caution signs where the hazard level is low and potential for minor personal injury or equipment damage exists. Typically, caution signs warn against unsafe practices or restricted activities. They’re meant to help workers or visitors avoid getting into a hazardous situation. OSHA and ANSI prescribe these low hazard level signs to have the capitalized CAUTION alert tag in black letters set against a yellow backdrop.
Other OSHA and ANSI Prescribed Signage Types
For decades, OSHA and ANSI worked as separate entities. OSHA’s mandate was to educate, train and regulate American workers and their working environments. ANSI’s primary task was setting standards for materials, products and methods of application in American workplaces and public arenas. In the early 2000s, OSHA and ANSI identified overlapping areas and committed to developing universal safety approaches. One of these projects was to unify signage.
The main area that OSHA and ANSI focused on was making their main workplace sign categories clear and identifiable. Those were the danger, warning and cautionary categories. There are other sign divisions that OSHA and ANSI recognized being common to all worksites. The U.S. government regulators prescribed formats for these other commonly used signs:
1. Notice Signs
Notices advise workers and other people about the workplace of general information on issues like equipment operation, restricted access points and directional guidelines. Official signs have the white trigger word NOTICE on a blue background.
2. General Safety Signs
These are meant to broadly convey safety messages like health hazards, precautionary measures and housekeeping regulations. General safety signs also prescribe safe operation steps and guidelines. Official signs in this category have the words GENERAL SAFETY in black letters on a green background.
3. Admittance Signs
You’ll recognize OSHA and ANSI prescribed admittance signs by the black block letters ADMITTANCE on an orange backing. Admittance signs alert workers to hazards within a particular warehouse area and what precautions to use. These signs usually restrict access to authorized personnel and prescribe required personal protection equipment.
4. Fire Safety Signs
Fire precaution and alert signs tell workers where firefighting equipment is and what routes to use to escape a fire crisis. OSHA and ANSI signs have a universal look with FIRE SAFETY in black letters against a red backdrop. Fire signage often includes directional indicators such a luminescent floor tape or adhesive-backed footprints leading workers toward the nearest egress point.
5. Non-Hazard Signs
This is a general signage category that OSHA considers optional in warehouses and other American worksites. However, OSHA and ANSI recommend that safety planners stick to a uniform sign style that fits with other required signage. Regulators realize how critical uniformity is in a professional environment. They recommend non-compliant signs to use the block-lettered trigger word NON-HAZARD in black on white to identify facility information such as office areas, meeting rooms and washrooms. Non-hazard signs must never relate any risk or potential danger.
Important Warehouse Sign Components
OSHA has more information that’s important about how warehouses and other workplace signs should appear. The OSHA publication includes suggestions and directions on lettering, sign size, readability and specified materials. Not all this information in OSHA’s publication is mandatory. Part of OSHA’s mandate is to help American employers and employees to build a safety sign system that works within their individual workplaces. Important information includes:
1. Sign Headers
OSHA prescribes sign headers to have a trigger word in block or capitalized letters that contrast with the background. Black is the universal color for header words.
2. Sign Format
OSHA recommends that workplace safety signs have a specific format. That includes the trigger word or sign information category at the top, an ANSI-approved hazard symbol at the mid and lower left and the advisory information in a combination of capital and non-capitalized letters in the lower center to right.
3. Sign Font
Using the right font on warehouse safety signs is essential. OSHA recommends using a sans-serif font like Ariel, Verdana or Helvetica which is easy to read, especially from a distance. Just as contrasting colors are essential, so is having a non-cluttered font that’s well-recognized.
4. Sign Materials
OSHA leaves sign material selection up to the individual workplace, but they do have some tips on specifications. OSHA recommends all workplace signs to have durable material that mounts well and withstands all environmental conditions. Wisely, OSHA points out that warehouse and other worksite signs must not harm the occupants. They recommend having rounded corners without sharp edges.
5. Sign Visibility
In OSHA’s publication, they mandate that all sign wording can be read from 5 feet away by persons with good or corrected eyesight. That’s the minimum standard, however, it’s critical that signs be legible from a distance where a person needs notification. As a rule, the common-sense approach is to increase the font size to correspond with the intended readable distance. For example, at 5 feet, the text size should be a quarter inch tall. At 40 feet, it should be 1.6 inches high, and at 100 feet, the font needs to be at least 4 inches.
Proper Setup for Safety Signage in the Warehouse
Aside from having professionally manufactured and regulatory-compliant signs that every worker can read, understand and identify with, it’s also essential that you place warehouse safety signage in the right locations. One of the best pointers you can get is to take the time and do a thorough assessment of your current sign inventory. This involves an eyes-open walkabout through your warehouse. It’s important that you do this with your safety officer or someone on your joint occupational safety and health (JOSH) committee.
During your inspection inside and outside your facility, note the location, condition and presentation of every sign you encounter. Chances are you’ll spot signs you’ve passed countless times without notice. There’s a high likelihood your employees have done the same thing, and that’s a sure indicator of an ineffective safety sign. Here are items to list on your sign inventory inspection sheet:
Effective signs are placed at their point of use. That means these signs are directly related to a specific danger, hazard or area of caution. Point-of-use signs also apply to safety devices like firefighting equipment or fueling station protection. It’s important to make sure all signs are directly related to their subject at hand and not to some out-of-sight issue.
2. Sign Clutter
This happens in many warehouses across America. There are too many signs posted at one location, and they get lost in each other. Workers are overwhelmed by words and images to the point where they ignore important information. Ensure you have only enough signage to get the point across so it’s understood and retained.
3. Sign Height
It’s also important that you place your signs at the right height for people to see them. Highly-placed signs such as exit markers should be above eye level. Information signs like danger, warning and caution signs are best placed at chest level. Direction signs and marking lines or delineation tape should be at or near floor level so they easily relate to guiding people along paths or setup for equipment placing.
4. Out-of-Date Signs
Antiquated or expired signs are of no value to anyone. If you spot a sign that’s no longer relevant or compliant to today’s OSHA and ANSI standards, get rid of it. Keeping current with safety signs is important. Being up-to-date sends an important signal to your workforce that you’re current with safety issues and serious about their welfare.
5. Missing and Damaged Signs
You might find signs referring to equipment and safety issues have disappeared or been broken. That happens over time in most warehouses, but it’s not acceptable in a professional setting. Get on top of missing and damaged signs by replacing them with modern signage that’s professionally manufactured.
6. Temporary Signs
How often have you seen temporary signs that are paper printed and taped to the wall? On your warehouse walkthrough, you’ll undoubtedly encounter a sign once erected for a temporary event or purpose. This haphazard look is unprofessional and detracts from the committed safety culture you want in your workplace. Remove shabby or ineffective signs and replace them with a new look from a quality sign supplier.
Selecting Important Safety Signage and Markings for Your Warehouse
Just as it’s highly important to have OSHA and ANSI compliant signs in your warehouse, it’s equally important to select the right manufacturer and supplier for your safety signage and markings. Material-Handling is one of America’s leading suppliers of warehouse signs and marking supplies. At Material-Handling, we specialize in top-quality safety signs, aisle marking supplies and floor safety tape. All our safety products are OSHA compliant and conform to current directions set out by ANSI.
You can maximize your workers’ safety with our standard and custom safety signs and high-visibility floor markings. We outfit your warehouse with superb visual prompts that catch employees’ attention and guide them safely about their day’s business. Here are four important benefits you’ll get with our safety sign and marking products:
- Improved identification of hazardous conditions and dangerous locations
- Increased situational awareness for everyone in the warehouse
- Prevention of accidents involving personnel injury and inventory damage
- Delivered information between all team members, clients and guests
We stock a wide selection of safety signs to suit practically every warehouse purpose. If we don’t carry what you need in inventory, we can quickly come up with a custom solution to serve your individual problem. Here are our most popular safety signs:
- Rectangular floor sign series that convey danger, warning and caution messages
- Triangular floor sign series that indicate yields to forklift and mobile equipment
- Circular floor sign series that communicate directions, locations and workflow
- Polygon floor sign series that universally shout stop and pay attention
We are also a national leader in aisle markings, floor tape and tool marking signage. Rather than expensive and time-consuming paints, our aisle and floor marking systems are vinyl tapes with rubber-backed adhesives. Here are the most popular products in our floor tape and aisle marking inventory:
- Shadow-Mark series tool identification tape
- Mighty Line T series aisle marking tape
- Mighty Line Dot series equipment positioning tape
- Mighty Line Angle series delineation tape
- Mighty Line Footprint series directional tape
- Mighty Line Solid series floor line tape
- Mighty Line Hatch series striped warning tape
- Mighty Glow Center Strip series with luminescent lines
- Durastripe Supreme V series safety tape
- 3RP series aisle and pathway marking tape
Find the Signs You Need at Material Handling
Material-Handling is here for all your professional warehouse signage and marking supplies. Give us a call at 877-350-2729 or reach us 24/7 through our online contact form.