As an employer, it’s your responsibility to do everything in your power to keep everyone on your worksite safe at all times. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has developed strict guidelines for all safety signs — with the exception of those designed for streets, highways, and railroads — to warn of potential hazards to workers, the public, and/or property.

The importance of following OSHA guidelines cannot be emphasized enough. A total of 4,679 workers were killed on the job in 2014, averaging nearly 90 per week or more than 13 every single day. Additionally, an alarming 20.5% of all 4,251 private industry worker fatalities in 2014 were in construction.

The leading causes of death on construction sites — falls, electrocutions, struck by object, and caught-in/between — the “Fatal Four” were cited as the cause of death 58.1% of the time, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Simply eliminating these hazards from worksites would save the lives of 508 workers in the U.S. each year.

OSHA Guidelines for Accident Prevention Signs

All newly created signs and replacements for existing ones must adhere to these OSHA guidelines — excluding safety posters, employee education bulletins, and news releases.

Danger Signs

Signs that warn of specific dangers and radiation hazards are required to follow a uniform type of design. Employees must be warned of the threat of immediate danger anywhere these signs are posted and know that extra precaution must be exercised. Danger signs should be red, black, and white and the word “danger” should always be included.

Additionally, danger tags should be used in situations where a major hazard presents an immediate threat of death or serious injury to workers — but in these situations only.

Caution Signs

Caution signs should only be posted to warn against potential hazards or to advise caution against unsafe practices. You are required to inform your team exactly why caution signs are posted and what they need to do to protect themselves from the potential hazard. All caution signs should have a background color of yellow and any letters placed on this background should be black. The word “caution” should be clearly spelled out on each sign.

Caution tags must be included in all instances of minor hazards, where a non-immediate, potential hazard, or unsafe practice creates a possible threat of injury to employees.

Safety Instruction Signs

Safety instruction signs are to be posted when you need to offer general instructions and suggestions regarding proper safety measures that must be followed on your worksite. These signs should have a white background and any letters used against this background are required to be black.

Learn more about OSHA’s specifications for accident prevention signs and tags by reading the document in full.

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