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OSHA & ANSI - What's the Difference?




Referenced Standard

29 CFR 1910.145

ANSI Z535.1 to Z535.5 2011 (R2017)

Where Can I Find the Full Standard?

The OSHA website: document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9794

Must be purchased to get whole standard. The information below is NOT complete, just for reference. There are several suppliers of the complete standard – this is just one:

What are the scopes of the standards?

29 CFR 1910.145(a)(1) “These specifications apply to the design, application, and use of signs or symbols (as included in paragraphs (c) through (e) of this section) intended to indicate and, insofar as possible, to define specific hazards of a nature such that failure to designate them may lead to accidental injury to workers or the public, or both, or to property damage. These specifications are intended to cover all safety signs except those designed for streets, highways, railroads, and marine regulations. These specifications do not apply to plant bulletin boards or to safety posters.”

ANSI Z 535.2-2011 (R2017) (2.1) “This standard sets forth requirements for the design, application, and use of safety signs in facilities and in the environment.”

What are the major differences between OSHA and ANSI Standards?

SIGN HEADER: • Uses familiar block style headers. • These headers were used in prior ANSI standards. • Colors are dictated by hazard signal word

WORDING FORMAT: • Center Justified in the text area

LETTER FORMAT: • All capital letters

Under OSHA’s November 2013 update, users can now use either the latest American National Standard Institute (ANSI) standard from 2011 (ANSI Z535.1, Z535.2 & Z535.5) or the previous standard from 1967-1968. ANSI Z535 signs include a descriptive header, a legend containing the hazard and a visual pictogram to help convey the safety message.

SIGN HEADER: • Uses triangle surround exclamation point for personal injury hazards signs • Common Size on Hazard Level Signal Words • Colors are dictated by hazard signal word

WORDING FORMAT: • Left justified in the text area with correct punctuation

LETTER FORMAT: • Capital and small letters in paragraph form


Which Header Should I Choose?




Danger :

29 CFR1910.145(c)(1)(ii)

ANSI Z535.2-2011 (R2017) (4.11.1)

Danger signs indicate immediate danger and that special precautions are necessary.

“DANGER: Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. This signal word is to be limited to the most extreme situations.”


29 CFR 1910.145

ANSI Z535.2-2011 (R2017) (4.11.2)

Warning signs may be used to represent a hazard level between "Caution" and "Danger." Ths sign should include the word "Warning" and an appropriate major message.

“WARNING: Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury.”


29 CFR 1910.145(c)(2)(i)

ANSI Z535.2-2011 (R2017) (4.11.3)

Caution signs shall be used only to warn against potential hazards or to caution against unsafe practices.

“CAUTION: Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in minor or moderate injury.”



ANSI Z535.2-2011 (R2017) (4.11.4)

Notice signs may be used in addition to signs required in this section, or in other situations where signs are not required in this section. Notice signs should not detract from the impact or visibility of a signal word or major message of a required sign.

“NOTICE: Indicates information considered important but not hazard-related. The safety alert symbol shall not be used with this signal word. For environmental/facility signs, NOTICE is typically the choice of signal word for messages relating to property damage, security, sanitation, and housekeeping rules."



ANSI Z535.2-2011 (R2017) (4.11.5)

"Safety Instruction signs shall be used where there is a need for general instructions and suggestions relative to safety measures."

“SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS or similar words: Indicates a type of safety sign, or a separate panel on a safety sign, where specific safety-related instructions or procedures are described. More definitive signal words are encouraged, where practical, (e.g. SAFE SHUTDOWN PROCEDURE, SAFETY OPERATING PROCEDURES, BOILER SHUTDOWN PROCEDURE, LOCKOUT PROCEDURE, EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN INSTRUCTIONS). The safety alert symbol shall not be used with this classification of signal word. This signal word may also be used as a heading for a safety instruction panel incorporated into a hazard alerting sign to convey lengthy instructional information. See Sections B3.3.6 and B7.