SAFETY COLOR CODING THE LOST ART
Much has been said over the years in regard to the varied types to safety training, topics, programs and modules available for use in workplace safety. However, very little is mentioned when it comes to one of the oldest and tried and true methods of workplace safety Color Coding.
Color coding is a brilliant safety idea because workers can tell at a glance—almost without thinking—that they’re facing a hazard and how bad that hazard is. That’s why OSHA requires color coding. Two sections of the OSHA General Industry Standards (29 CFR 1910) cover the requirements for color coding.
Section 29 cfr 1910.144 of the OSHA standard states which colors must be used to mark physical hazards.
Red must be used for:
• Fire-protection equipment (identification of)
• Buttons or switches used for emergency stopping of machinery
• Stop bars on hazardous machines such as rubber mills, flatwork ironers, wire blocks, etc.
• Portable containers of flammable liquids with a flash point at or below 80o F (excluding shipping containers); there should be additional, clearly visible identification such as a yellow band around the container or the name of the contents stenciled or painted in yellow
• Lights at barricades and temporary obstructions as specified in the ANSI Safety Code for Building Instruction
Yellow must be used for:
• indicating and urging caution, and
• designating physical hazards, such as striking against, stumbling, tripping, falling, and getting “caught in between”
Accident Prevention Signs and Tags
Section 1910.145 covers signs for various purposes (e.g., danger, caution, safety instruction) and the design and wording of such signs. It also spells out requirements for accident prevention tags and slow-moving vehicle emblems.
Although red is generally associated with danger in nearly everyone’s mind, the warnings indicated by other colors may not be so obvious to all workers. That’s why training them in such use is important. Here is the most usual “code”:
• Red = Danger. OSHA recommends using red, or predominantly red, for danger signs or tags, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color (usually white against the red background). Red is also used for fire apparatus and equipment, safety containers for flammables, and safety devices such as switches for emergency stopping of machinery, stop bars, and buttons.
• Yellow = Caution. These signs and tags are all yellow, or predominantly yellow, with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color (usually black). Yellow is often used for physical dangers such as slipping, tripping, falling, striking against, and pinch points.
• Orange = Warning. These orange, or predominantly orange, signs and tags generally have black lettering or symbols. Orange is often used for potentially dangerous parts of machinery or equipment that may cut, crush, shock, or otherwise injure a person.
• Fluorescent Orange/Orange-Red = Biological Hazard. These signs and tags have lettering or symbols in a contrasting color (usually black). This color designates infectious agents and wastes that pose a risk of death, injury, or illness.
• Green = Safety Instructions. These signs usually have white lettering against the green background. Some part of the sign may also contain black lettering against a white background. Green is used to designate first-aid equipment, emergency eyewash stations, and so forth.
• Fluorescent Yellow-Orange: This color is used, with a dark red reflective border, on slow-moving vehicle triangles.
Sources EHS Today June, 2009, OSHA 29Cfr 1910. 145