Formatting Safety Signs

A well-formatted sign conveys its message more clearly than a poorly designed one. Although OSHA provides standards for safety visuals, the ANSI Z535 series of standards is much more comprehensive and detailed.

When choosing or creating a safety sign, keep some of the following design tips in mind:

formatting safety signs

Write signal words in all capital letters and center them in their

panels. Italicize “Notice”. Signal words are posted at the top of the sign and corresponds with the situation. For instance, hazards that will cause a serious injury or death requires a danger sign while hazardous situations that might cause a minor to moderate injury calls for a caution sign.

Align the safety alert symbol to the left of hazard signal words. Safety symbols are relatively simple, an exclamation point inside a triangle, and indicates hazards that can cause personal injury or illness.

Left align text, unless the text is a one-line message, in which case it can be centered or left aligned. Avoid justifying text. Use sans serif fonts (such as Arial, Helvetica, Futura, etc.) so text is easier to read. Choose an orientation—horizontal or vertical—that makes sense for your application. If people in the workplace speak multiple languages, include text in the appropriate languages. When a sign contains multiple messages, list the most important message first.

Keep your word message short and to the point. You don’t need to include every word as you would in a sentence. You can eliminate pronouns, articles, and forms of the verb “to be.” For example, instead of saying “This machine will cause an electric shock or a burn” you could say “Will cause electric shock or burn.”

Write sentences in the active voice instead of the passive voice. (The subject of the sentence comes first.) Doing so simplifies the text, making it easier to understand. For example, you can say “Keep body parts away from machinery” instead of “Your body parts must be kept away from the machinery.”

For detailed information about sign formatting and text guidelines, see ANSI Z535.2.


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