Different Hazard Signs and What They Mean

There’s little chance that anyone could be confused about the meaning of a red hexagonal sign. Throughout most of the world, it means “stop” in every conceivable context. It’s a good thing such a symbol is universally recognized, because it has undoubtedly saved countless lives. Road signs are crucial for preventing accidents and maintaining order on our streets and highways. The same is true in a laboratory or industrial workspace, where hazard signs are used to alert workers of dangerous conditions. Without them, there’s no doubt that thousands of people would be hurt or even killed on the job because they didn’t have sufficient warning.

However, most of the signage used in these environments doesn’t have the universal recognition of the stop sign. Some symbols, such as those representing radioactivity or biohazards, have become well-known virtually everywhere. Others, such as those used for lasers or corrosive materials, may be more obscure to the general public. This means there could be situations in which workers, especially relatively inexperienced ones, may be confused about what certain warnings mean. This can lead to people using the wrong safety equipment for the occasion or not using protective gear at all. In these instances, the chances for injury or something much worse becomes greater.

This is why it is imperative for anyone working in an industrial or laboratory environment to become fully acquainted with the various types of warning signs. Knowing these symbols and what they mean can be the difference between working safely and an accident. For example, workers must know that when they see a snowflake on a triangular yellow sign, it means they are entering an area in which dangerously cold temperatures are maintained. Wearing proper safety gloves when handling anything in these areas will prevent injury.

The accompanying infographic contains vital information about many common warning graphics you might see.

Graphic provided by LabSource