Guide To Safety Signs And Symbols In The Workplace

Guide To Safety Signs And Symbols In The Workplace
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Safety signs and symbols are useful warning, information or instruction display tools. 

These are a must in every modern workplace. However, their application extends beyond working environments. Traffic authorities & railways extensively use these Safety signs & symbols to direct people away from unsafe zones. 

You may have spotted any safety or exit signs or barricades in various locations, as these have been widely used since decades. They slowly gained prominence in every industry, department or organization. These safety signs & symbols are now a critical part of workplace safety in restaurants, schools & hospitals too. According to The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety signs must be “visible at all times when work is being performed, and shall be removed or covered promptly when the hazards no longer exist.” They must be posted where they are visible from a set distance, in most cases five feet.”

However, workplace safety isn’t limited to safety training or providing your workforce with Personal Protective Equipment (P.P.E.). Modern workplace safety extends beyond these safety measures. Safety signs & symbols have become an integral part of workplace safety. Warning signs & other symbols are an effective way to indicate the presence of any hazards and dangers. 

Let’s understand different safety signs and symbols in detail. 

Understanding Safety Signage

I know you’re curious to understand safety signage in detail so as to decipher different signs and symbols that are widely used. 

Let me explain it to you. 

According to wikipedia “Safety signs are a type of sign designed to warn of hazards, indicate mandatory actions or required use of Personal protective equipment, prohibit actions or objects, identify the location of firefighting or safety equipment, or marking of exit routes.”

These safety signs and symbols are displayed for multiple purposes. Think of it as a nonverbal communication for warning, instructing, & directing the employees, citizens or passerbys. Very common for decades. And a must to mark the unsafe zones around construction sites, industrial sites, hospitals, roads, highways, etc.  

One purpose is to warn employees, citizens and passerbys about the potential danger ahead. Whether it’s a construction site, an industrial facility, a hospital, or a bustling highway, potential hazards and dangers must be present and unknown to the people around. These safety signs caution people at the right time, avoiding potential accidents and injuries.

Moreover, safety signs and symbols not only warns but also guides towards safe emergency exits. From navigating safely to avoiding restricted areas, these safety signage help in making quick decisions in critical situations.   

Safety signs and symbols are also helpful in directing individuals towards life saving resources like fire extinguishers, fire alarms, or evacuation routes.

Safety Signs: Color Coding and Meaning

Colors are powerful. They subtly convey strong feelings and emotions. Like the red color symbolizes love. White symbolizes peace. Black symbolizes power and elegance. However, in the context of safety, this symbolism undergoes change. These colorful safety signs and symbols are universal and perfectly enhance the message conveyed. 

Let’s see different colors used in safety signs and hidden meanings behind them.


Red color is universally associated with danger. When the traffic signal is red, you immediately slow down and apply the brakes. Similarly, when spotting a red warning sign, you should stop right there. Because, a red warning sign signals the presence of a danger ahead. Red warning signs are mostly used to caution about electricity & fire dangers. Red color enhances the visibility and the red safety sign can be spotted from far distance as well. Life saving resources like fire alarms & fire extinguishers are purposely kept red so they can be easily spotted.


If red color is universally associated with danger, then yellow color is universally associated with caution. Yellow warning signs are used to caution people about the danger ahead. Whenever you spot a yellow warning sign, slow down and proceed ahead with care. This type of warning sign alerts you about the dangers like a wet floor, a construction zone, or a work in progress, or any other areas containing hazardous products.

Yellow Crime Scene safety sign:

To avoid the tampering of evidence, police officers use yellow warning signs to secure a crime scene. You may have seen this in a movie. Police officers mark the crime scene area with yellow warning signs and prevent unauthorized entry. These yellow signs signal the presence of police officers in the area and once you spot these yellow tapes, don’t cross the line as police officers might be investigating a crime scene.


Blue warning safety signs and symbols are used for signaling dangers as well as guiding people to locations. A faulty machine is marked by a blue warning sign & an area with water lines is also marked with a blue warning sign.


Green warning tapes are mostly used to specify safe zones. Especially in an emergency situation, a green warning sign will guide you towards a safe exit. Plantation and green areas are also marked with green sign. First aid & other safety equipment is also highlighted in green.


Orange warning signs cautions people about the construction zones or roadwork ahead. They also signal the presence of any gas line, electric line, irrigation line, sewer line below. Orange warning safety signs and symbols are also used to alert about any sharp or dangerous equipment. 

Types of Safety Signs

Danger Signs:

This is a very common & scary safety sign. You may have spotted it around high voltage electric boards. The danger sign has a red background, the word “Danger” in white text, often accompanied by the universally recognized symbol of a human skull and bones. This scary red danger sign is a powerful indicator of a danger that’ll result in sudden death or serious injury. This safety sign demands your immediate attention and urges individuals to stop and refrain from proceeding.

Prohibition signs:

A red circle, red diagonal line across the circle & a white background: makes a prohibition sign. The purpose of a prohibition sign is to prevent an unacceptable action or behavior. That unacceptable action could potentially endanger the lives of others within that particular area.  For example, the “No Smoking” prohibition sign prohibits smoking to protect individuals from fire hazards.

Warning signs:

The name says it all. Displayed to warn individuals about a possible but not immediate danger. Triangular shaped, yellow background & a black border usually represents a warning sign. These signs alerts individuals so they can slow down, change their route or proceed with caution. Construction zones, slippery or wet surfaces, flammable material are often marked with warning signs.

Emergency signs:

Emergency signs are required for safe evacuation. In the event of fire, emergency signs guide individuals towards safe exit routes, first-aid kits, fire alarms, fire extinguisher, fire fighting equipment etc. Emergency signs facilitate quick responses and minimize casualties by providing clear guidance in times of crisis. These are rectangular or square in shape. With a red background and text written in white.

First Aid Signs:

Any health issue in a workplace requires immediate attention. Timely action is only possible if first aid kit & equipment is available. However, these kits are safely stored and are identified by a white cross with green background sign, known as a first aid sign. This universally understood first aid safety signs and symbols help in locating first aid equipment quickly.

Under Construction Signs

Under construction signs are needed to alert people about under construction work going ahead. These safety signs and symbols can inform people about the potential hazards ahead so they can exercise caution or change their route. Such warning signs also help the traffic authorities in regulating the traffic. These signs have an orange or yellow background. With “Under Construction” text written in black. Some under construction signs include an image of a worker with a tool engaged in digging activity.  

Wrap Up: Guide To Safety Signs And Symbols In The Workplace

Safety signs and symbols are an integral part of workplace safety. It’s better to equip your workplace with all the necessary safety signs that perfectly communicate, guide & instruct your workforce and visitors. These non verbal communication signs aren’t just for display. As wikipedia says “Safety signs are a type of sign designed to warn of hazards, indicate mandatory actions or required use of Personal protective equipment, prohibit actions or objects, identify the location of firefighting or safety equipment, or marking of exit routes.” These safety signs and symbols are a combination of color and written text. When blended together these have become universal safety symbols. Red, yellow, orange, blue, green, are the most used colors while danger signs, warning signs, prohibition signs, first aid signs, emergency signs, under construction signs are the different types of popular & universal safety signs.

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