This section has been reviewed and updated as needed: June 2014


The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z53.1, Safety Color Code for Marking Physical Hazards, and the identification of certain equipment specifies standard colors and signs to be used in a safety and health program. The State’s Work Place Requirements Program for Safety and Health adopts ANSI Z53.1 in order to provide uniformity throughout the University.


  • Red is recommended for identifying fire protection equipment, danger and emergency stops on machines.
  • Yellow because of its high visibility is the standard color for marking hazards that may result in accidents from slipping, falling, striking against, etc.
  • Green in combination with white, such as the green cross on a white background, designates the location of first aid and safety equipment.
  • Black and White and combinations of the two in strips or checks are used for housekeeping and traffic markings.
  • Orange is the standard color to highlight hazardous parts of machines or electrical equipment, such as exposed edges of cutting devices, the inside of removed guards, and the doors and covers of switch boxes.
  • Magenta identifies radiation hazards, such as radioactive materials, in rooms and containers.
Signs are not to be considered as the final step to be taken against hazards.
Whenever possible, the hazards are to be eliminated.

Signs and symbols required by this section must be visible at all times when work is being performed and shall be removed or covered promptly when the hazards no longer exist.
  • Danger signs must be used only where an immediate hazard exists.
  • Danger signs must have red as the predominant color for the upper panel, black outline on the borders and a white lower panel for additional sign wording.
  • Caution signs shall be used only to warn against potential hazards or to caution against unsafe practices.
  • Caution signs shall have yellow as the predominant color, black upper panel and borders, yellow lettering or “caution” on the black panel, and the lower yellow panel for additional sign wording. Black lettering shall be used for additional wording.
Safety instruction signs, when used, must be white with green upper panel and white letters to convey the principal message. Any additional wording on the sign shall be black letters on the white background.
Directional signs, other than automotive traffic signs, must be white with a black panel and white directional symbol. Any additional wording on the sign shall be black letters on the white background.
Exit signs, when required, must be lettered in legible red letters not less than 6 inches high on a white field and the principal stroke of the letters must be at least three fourths of an inch wide.
  • Construction areas shall be posted with legible traffic signs at points of hazard.
  • All traffic control signs or devices used for protection of State employees and the public shall conform to the American National Standards Institute D6 current Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways. Available from ANSI, 1430 Broadway, NY, NY 10018.
A warning sign should be attached to laser equipment in a conspicuous location indicating the potential eye hazard associated with the laser and warning against looking into the primary beam and at specular reflections. Such a warning sign might read:


  • The biological hazard warning symbol must be used to signify the actual or potential presence of a biohazard and to identify equipment, containers, rooms, materials or combinations thereof which contain or are contaminated with viable hazardous agents.
  • For the purpose of this standard the term “Biological Hazard” or biohazard shall include only those infectious agents presenting a risk or potential risk to the well being of man.
  • This symbol may be a fluorescent orange or orange red color with the background color optional. Each sign shall have the appropriate wording identifying the nature of the hazard involved, name of individual responsible for its control and precautionary information.
Caution labels are to be affixed to all raw materials, mixtures, scrap, waste, debris and other products containing asbestos fibers, or to their containers, except that no label is required where asbestos fibers have been modified by a bonding agent, coating, binder or other material so that during any reasonably foreseeable use, handling, storage, disposal, processing or transportation, no airborne concentrations of asbestos fibers in excess of the exposure limits prescribed by OSHA Standards 29CFR Part 1910, Subpart Z.
The label shall state:


Contains Asbestos Fibers
Breathing Asbestos Dust May Cause
Serious Bodily Harm

Entrances to regulated areas as defined in OSHA Standard 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart Z shall be posted with signs bearing the legend:


Containers shall have the warning words “CANCER – SUSPECT AGENT” displayed immediately under the contents identification.

The tags are a temporary means of warning all concerned of a hazardous condition, defective equipment, radiation hazards, etc. The tags are not to be considered as a complete warning method but should be used until a positive means can be employed to eliminate the hazard; for example, a “DO NOT START” tag on power equipment shall be used for a very short time until the switch in the system can be locked out.