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Why Are Warning and Safety Signs So Important?


Caution Overhead Work in Progress Sign

Safety signs can be found in almost every nook and cranny of large facilities and buildings. Doubtful? We bet you haven’t even noticed the abundance of warning signs you encounter on a day-to-day basis – in supermarkets, on roadways, at airports and bus terminals.

As you observe more of them, you may find yourself asking: Why put these signs up everywhere – I mean, aren’t hazards pretty much obvious?

Well, we have plenty of information to cover in a short amount of time. So, let’s get to it.

Bonus: Download a free infographic that will show you how to apply OSHA best practices at your space or facility.

Here are the five main uses of safety signs:

  • Drawing attention to health and safety issues when others are absent.
  • Documenting safety procedures and protocol.
  • Reminding employees and visitors to put on safety equipment before entering an area.
  • Underscoring the location of emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, and shutoff valves.
  • Prohibiting actions or mandating certain precautionary activities.

Sidle up, it’s story time.

Imagine a new construction worker with limited English skills, in a team full of native English speakers. He decides to enter a zone with a crane overhead, which isn’t marked by any sort of hazard alerting safety message. Everyone else is wearing hard hats, but no one tells him a hard hat is required in this zone.

Suddenly, a clutch of metal pipes slips out from the hoist rope of the crane, and the man without the hard hat is rushed to the hospital. The others are fine, just rattled.

What could have prevented this injury?

Use Caution Signs

Safety signage!

First off, businesses in which bilingual and non-native speakers are common often post signs in two (or multiple) languages. Pictographs are generally used to transcend the boundaries of language as well.

Had there been signage with the aforementioned qualities, this new construction worker wouldn’t have even needed to speak to his coworkers. He could’ve avoided the area altogether!

Secondly, an OSHA-approved, NOTICE sign wasn’t posted, which often highlights information about proper procedure for PPE (Personal Protection Equipment). A warning that a hard hat was required would have at least prompted him to wear one.

Lastly, there should always be an aluminum DANGER sign posted where the risk of serious injury or death (in this case, the crane above) is an absolute certainty. The safety alert symbol and red header of this type of sign would’ve signaled that something was amiss, even if the worker couldn’t make heads or tails of the messaging.

According to a series of experiments performed at the University of Rochester, “red enhances our physical reactions because it is seen as a danger cue.” So, red means danger, even across cultures.

Let’s mention the legal issues.

As far as preventing unintended injuries and deaths, safety signs are crucial.

But another reason to have them around is that they are required by law in most circumstances.  The Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces specifications, rules, and regulation regarding safety signs and tags.

These dictate everything down to the color, pattern, shape, and typography of your safety signs (though some leeway exists when it comes to design and messaging).

In January 2020, OSHA increased its safety penalties, with employers that knowingly fail to comply seeing a near 2% increase in monetary penalties

Needless to say, they take hazard communications very seriously. Complying with safety standards may seem like overkill if you’re a smaller business, but neglecting to follow signage requirements will leave your company wallet a little lighter.

For more information on the importance of safety signage, you can rely on the experts at Signs Now®.

“How else can I get safety and caution signs to work for me?” you ask. 

Find out with an expert site assessment courtesy of Signs Now®. We have an array of Hazard, Warning & Safety Signage for all applications and budgets.

And if you’re looking for an ADA-compliant solution to indoor signage, we offer Regulatory, Wayfinding & ADA Compliant Signs. We invite you to learn more about what Signs Now can do for you. To get started, contact us today.


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