How to Read and Understand Construction Site Safety Signs

Construction work is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

In fact, over 20% of all employee workplace fatalities occur within the private construction sector.

Reflective safety clothing is one way to mitigate workplace disasters. Yet, construction site safety signs go a step further in ensuring the protection of your team.

Plus, worksites that don’t follow standard safety practices risk huge OSHA fines.

Make sure you review the following construction signs before starting your project.

The Five Primary Safety Signs

Construction signage communicates potential hazards to workers. By the end of orientation, every employee should have a solid understanding of every safety sign on site.

Signs fall into five main categories:

  • Safe conditions
  • Warning signage
  • Fire equipment
  • Prohibition Signage
  • Mandatory

Furthermore, each sign must follow OSHA’s design rules to avoid fines.

1. Mandatory Signs

A construction mandatory sign communicates rules and directions workers are mandated to follow. For example, signs instructing builders to wear hard hats and safety clothing on-site is an example of a mandatory sign.

According to OSHA, mandatory signs must be white and blue. They’re typically blue circular signs with bold white lettering.

Here are several examples of mandatory signage messages:

  • Wear gloves
  • Safety harnesses must be worn at all times
  • Wear hard hats beyond this point
  • Keep fire door shut
  • Safety clothing must be worn beyond this point
  • Ear protection mandatory

Forgetting these signs will lead to an OSHA nightmare. Worse yet, workers may experience serious injury or death. Such liabilities could shut down a business.

2. Safe Condition Signage

Safe condition signs are those familiar action signs you see in stairwells and worksites. An exit sign with a person walking (or running) accompanied by an arrow is a common example.

These signs must be green with white lettering or graphics or vice-versa. If you’re creating your own safe condition signs, consult the latest OSHA guidelines to ensure your colors are in compliance. Otherwise, hire a construction signage company to make compliant safety signage.

Other essential safe condition signs include:

  • Emergency shower (for chemical skin contamination)
  • First aid stations (or kits)
  • Fire exits
  • Spill kits
  • Fire assembly point

If you’re a construction worker, it’s vital to understand these signs at all times. Along with hard copy manuals, your manager should also provide digital versions for quick reference.

Staying safe also extends to legal help. All construction workers should be aware of their rights regarding workplace safety. If you were injured as a result of poor safety signage, a construction accident lawyer.

3. Warning Construction Site Safety Signs

Warning signs are also recognizable to workers and pedestrians. This construction signage alerts (or warns) people of potential dangers, like slippery puddles or electrical concerns. Hazardous material signs are examples of warning signs.

Other examples include:

  • Asbestos signs
  • High voltage warning signs
  • Weak roofing materials above
  • Barbed wire ahead
  • Construction work overhead
  • Danger up ahead
  • Flammable materials and gases

Another familiar warning sign is the classic “under construction” sign. You’ll find this sign near building scaffolding and construction tarps.

All warning signs must feature yellow triangle shapes with bold black lettering.

4. Prohibition Sign

Similar to mandatory construction signs, prohibition signage instructs workers to obey a message. However, instead of taking action, prohibition signs warn passerby to not take action.

Instead, workers are instructed to avoid the following actions:

  • Park their car (or between certain times)
  • Enter a facility
  • Enter a restricted area
  • Exceed speed limits

If the sign has graphics, all images must be printed black on white. However, the prohibition symbol must be printed in red.

For example, a typical “no smoking” sign features a black smoking cigarette against a white background. The cigarette sits within a red circle with a red slash over it.

5. Fire Equipment Signage

All fire equipment must have accompanying signage. These classic signs have red backgrounds with white graphics.

You would install fire equipment signs for the following tools:

  • Fire blankets
  • Fire hydrants
  • Fire alarms
  • Fire extinguishes

As workers gain more experience, associating colors with certain safety messages becomes clearer. Comprehending construction signs quickly improves safety.

For example, if you see a yellow sign without looking at the message, you can presume a warning is up ahead. Likewise, if you see a red sign in the distance, you can expect a “stop!” or other prohibition sign ahead.

A primarily blue sign is about to instruct you to do something, while a green sign is likely pointing you toward an escape route.

Understanding sign colors by themselves is vital, especially if your eyesight is suddenly impaired by an emergency.

How to Introduce Construction Safety Signs

Safety signage is necessary, but not every person is experienced with them. For example, the average pedestrian is familiar with “no smoking” signage and green exit signs. Yet, how familiar are they with mandatory signs for protective clothing?

Unfortunately, inexperienced workers and lost pedestrians may wander onto your site. Thus, managers must equip every possible access point with large, bold safety signage. Access point should be regulated several yards from the site as well.

If you’re building a structure for an investor, you may have to provide tours of the site. Thus, all visitors must know safety signage and protocols. You could create a PowerPoint presentation describing all safety signs and what they mean.

New workers may also be unsure of every safety sign. Enhance your orientation process with a safety signage course, complete with quizzes, definitions, and associated OSHA codes to ensure compliance.

Stay Safe At All Times

Does your site have all the safety signage it needs?

Remember these construction site safety signs as you plan your worksite. Don’t forget to consider pedestrians, investors, and inexperienced workers when designing your safety plan. Knowledge is key!

Safety technology is evolving. Follow the blog to discover more ways to enhance your profession.


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