In order to improve safety in the workplace or public spaces, objects and areas that have an increased safety risk are often marked. One highly effective way of making the markings as clear as possible is through the use of various colours. Each type of risk can be indicated with a different colour.

Standards for safety markings

For safety markings, a fixed set of colours is typically used. That is useful, because the ease of recognition is beneficial —imagine having every colour mean something different at each location. If the use of colour is the same everywhere, the message comes across the clearest. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO): “The general public will encounter safety signs in a variety of situations, including in workplaces, public areas and on products. The standardised colours and basic shapes for safety signs are therefore important in helping to ensure that the different types of safety signs, and the safety messages they convey, are easily recognisable." [source]

Standardisation organisations such as the international ISO, the European CEN, and the American ANSI have created standards and guidelines for the use of colours in safety markings. The international standard regarding safety markings is ISO 3864. The corresponding standard for the United States is ANSI Z535. It is important to specify that the standards concern safety markings in general. This means that the guidelines for colour use are just one part of them.

A difference between the two standards is the addition of words to pictograms. The ANSI recommends it, while the ISO standard recommends using graphical labels instead, in order to work around language barriers. However, the colour standards are the same.

Legislation and regulations for colour use in safety markings

For example, both the US government organisation OSHA and Dutch law require that zones with potential safety risks be marked in the workplace.

OSHA colour codes

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is part of the US Department of Labor. OSHA requires zones with potential safety risks to be marked in the workplace. OSHA provides its own guidelines for which colours to use in specific instances. OSHA follows the standards of the ANSI.

a

1

Fire safety equipment

red

a

2

Danger

red

a

3

Stop

red

b

1

Warning

yellow

Dutch law

In the Netherlands, the use of colour for safety and health warnings is regulated in labour condition regulations.

a

1

Prohibited

red

a

2

Danger or alarm

red

a

3

Identification and localisation of fire control materials and fire extinguishing equipment

red

b

1

Warning signal

yellow

b

1

Warning signal

orange-yellow

c

1

Command signal

blue

d

1

A rescue signal or first-aid signal

green

d

2

Safe situation

green

Using safety markings

Safety markings can be used in various ways. You can use signs, labels, and stickers with pictograms as well as coloured floor markings.

Pictograms

The clearest way to send your safety message is by using pictograms. For example, JekaShop offers floor pictograms. The floor pictograms satisfy international standards regarding colours, shapes, and pictograms. This means that they also comply with the local laws and rules in most countries.

Floor marking

Floor markings are an excellent addition to safety pictograms. The floor marking provides extra visibility and makes it clear that a safety marking refers to a specific area.

Even though it is not explicitly required by the various standardisation organisations, we recommend using two-tone floor markings when putting safety markings on the ground. The stripes on the markings are of equal width, sloping, and at an angle of 45°. At JekaShop, we also refer to the two-tone floor marking as warning tape.

Warning / Danger

Yellow/Black

Prohibited / Fire safety equipment

Red/White

Command

Blue/White

Escape route / Rescue equipment

Green/White