Safety signs appear anywhere a hazard or danger is present that cannot be avoided. They display information about safety or health. You may see them every day, but do you pay attention to them or, more importantly, do you know what they mean?

Signboards display safety information using a combination of shapes, symbols and colors. They may include words, but the symbol should be clear enough that they can be understood independent of the language spoken by the individual viewing it. Employers are responsible for informing employees about safety signs at the workplace. In order to understand signboards, you must have a basic understanding of the colors and shapes used on these signs.

Can you match these colors and shapes with the correct definitions?

Safety Sign Colors and ShapesSafety Sign Colors and Shapes

Answer key: A-4 (Red=Prohibition), B-3 (Yellow=Caution), C-2 (Green=Positive Action), D-1 (Blue=Mandatory Actions), E-6 (Circle=Prohibitions and Instructions), F-7 (Triangle=Warnings), G-5 (Square/Rectangle=Emergency Information)

Now that you’ve mastered the basics, let’s put this knowledge to work. Take a look at the signs below and let's see how to interpret their meaning based on their color, shape and symbols.

Sign BasicsSign Basics

SIGN A – Sign A is something everybody has seen. It’s found in airplanes, restaurants, bars, gas stations and countless other locations. Of course, it’s the no smoking symbol. The red color means prohibition, and the circular shape means prohibitions and instructions. Everybody recognizes the universal cigarette symbol and the line through it completes the picture as a smoking prohibited sign.

Sign B - The answer for sign B is “warning, strong magnetic fields.” The yellow color of the sign means caution, the triangular shape means warning, and the magnet with the field lines means strong magnetic fields.

Sign C - How about sign C? If you guessed safety gloves required, give yourself a gold star. The blue color means mandatory action and the round symbol means emergency and information. When you add the glove icon, it completes the picture as safety gloves required or mandatory.

Sign D – Sign D is for a fire exit. The sign is green, indicating it is a positive action. The square or rectangular shape means emergency or information.

Fire Extinguisher InsideFire Extinguisher Inside

Fire equipment signs are another class of signs. They are rectangular or circular in shape and are red with white symbols or text. One of the most common signs is the fire extinguisher sign.

OK, that was easy.

Now that you know the basic color and shape meanings, see if you can identify these twenty signs that do not include any text. The answers are provided below.

Emergency Signs QuizEmergency Signs Quiz

Understanding the color and shape standards and combining that knowledge with simple, universal symbols makes interpreting health and safety signs easy. How many did you get right?

Answer Key:

1) Mandatory, wash hands; 2) Do not extinguish with water; 3) Danger of death; 4) Emergency meeting point; 5) No naked flames; 6) Slide to open; 7) Safety harness must be worn; 8) Biohazard warning; 9) Emergency stop; 10) Warning, corrosive substance; 11) Do not oil; 12) Breathing apparatus must be worn; 13) Refer to instruction manual; 14) Do not walk or stand here; 15) Drinking water; 16) Flammable material; 17) Emergency eyewash station; 18) Wear welding mask; 19) Pinch point hazard; 20) Do not drink


Slip / Trip and Personal Protection Safety Labels and Signs

Emergency Exit / Egress Signs

Fire / High Heat and Flammable / Explosion Hazard Signs

Construction and Traffic / DOT Signs

Electrical / High Voltage Signs

Laser Signs

Radiation Signs

Welding Signs

Machinery and Lock Out Signs

Material Handling Signs

Materials Signs: