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Safety Tip: Use Warning Signs to Designate Particular Hazards

The use of warning signs to designate particular hazards is not just a good idea. It’s the law.

by James A. Kaufman
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The use of warning signs to designate particular hazards is not just a good idea. It’s the law. The OSHA Laboratory Standard 29CFR1910.1450 requires that those areas in which particularly hazardous substances (select carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and highly toxic substances) are used be clearly designated. The OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires the labeling of hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Hazard labeling should not be limited to chemical hazards. Mechanical, Biological, Physical, Noise, Radiation, Hi/Low Pressure, Electrical, and Stress hazards should all be clearly indicated with appropriate signs.

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Good signs should go beyond hazards and extend to the facilities and equipment we use to deal with these hazards: emergency equipment and emergency facilities. OSHA regulations require the emergency equipment be identified with prominent signs.

Take a careful look at your labels and see if they can’t be improved. Can you make it easier to recognize the hazard and the means of dealing with it? Are cabinets for corrosive storage clearly labeled? Are the circuit breakers in all your electric panels clearly labeled? Do preserved specimens have the identity of the preservative and appropriate hazard warnings on the labels?

The August 1991 issue of “Safety and Health News” from the National Safety Council had a good article on labeling. It contained the names and addresses of the many companies selling labeling products.

Source: Kaufman, James A., Laboratory Safety Guidelines - Expanded Edition, The Laboratory Safety Institute,