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Hazard Symbols

OSHA NFPA Best Practices Guide
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Written by Steve Hudgik

Hazard symbols are recognizable and simple graphic images designed to warn about hazardous materials or locations.

Hazard symbols quickly communicate the nature of a hazard, and in some cases what action should be taken in response to the hazard. Symbols communicate information quicker and more effectively than text.  While text takes time to read and understand, symbols are almost instantly understood.  Plus hazard symbols have the added advantage of not being limited by language. They communicate their message without regard to language or ability to read.

To reduce confusion and improve communication further, standard hazard communication symbols should be used.  Familiarity with the symbols being used will increase the ability of workers to quickly understand the message.  It also means that new employees will already recognize the meaning of symbols they became familiar with at their previous job.

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bio-hazard symbol

The ANSI Z535.3-2011, American National Standard Criteria for Safety Symbols, is the standard used in the U.S.  In Europe the DIN-4844-2 standard is used.

There may be times when a custom hazard symbol is appropriate.  Custom hazard symbols should only be used when they will increase the effectiveness of communication about the hazard.  For example, a custom symbol might show the specific machine or component that is hazardous.
When creating a custom hazard symbol keep it simple.  The more complex the symbol, the longer it will take for it to be understood.

Having a custom label printer, such as a DuraLabel printer, makes creating labels and signs with custom hazard symbols simple.  DuraLabel printers can include graphics saved in any format (WMF, JPG, BMP, GIF and others) on a label or sign.  However, be aware that the original size of the image must be large enough to print clearly on the label.  For example, symbols included on web pages typically will be too small to be used.

For more information about DuraLabel printers and supplies call 1-888-326-9244. Ask about special DuraLabel kits for printing OSHA compliant safety labels and signs.  You'll be glad you did.


The information presented in this document was obtained from sources that we deem reliable; Graphic Products does not guarantee accuracy or completeness. Graphic Products, Inc. makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Users of this document should consult municipal, state, and federal code and/or verify all information with the appropriate regulatory agency.

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