The Importance of Signage to Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

From the office to the construction site, fall risk affects every workplace.

June 10, 2019

The focus for National Safety Month this week is work-related slip, trip and fall (STF) incidents, which can result in serious or disabling injuries, lost workdays and reduced productivity. Falls on the same level are the second leading type of preventable injury at work and affect every industry and workplace. 

Being prepared with the right signage is an important first step in preventing STF.

On a recent customer visit, a maintenance manager explained just how effective signage can be. The ice machine in the organization’s cafeteria was leaking, and it took a while to get the leak under control. With the high volume of foot traffic in that area, leadership needed to act fast. By placing fold-up signs around the perimeter of the spill until the water was cleaned up, everyone who walked into that space was immediately made aware of the issue.

Think about potential hazards in your workspace. If you don’t have signage like this on hand, now is a good time to stock up. Effective signage helps prevent injuries, industry violations and higher insurance premiums.

There are many types of warning signs you may want to consider adding to your arsenal, including chemical and physical hazard, and facilities maintenance signage. Now is also a good time to brush up on guidelines and best practices for signage.


Becoming familiar with relevant guidelines and requirements can help you identify any signage gaps that might exist in your workspace. OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.145 is the guideline for signs and tags that identify hazards, and includes design requirements and specifications for safety sign use. The ANSI Z535 standard expands upon these elements, adding alert symbols and pictograms that communicate hazards. ANSI Z535 dictates standard sign and label colors, signal words (“Danger,” “Warning”), font style and size, and placement.

Sign Placement

Safety signage is important, but unless it exists in the proper environment in the facility, it won’t be obvious or helpful to people passing by. The placement of a sign can have a big impact on its effectiveness; it’s the primary factor in a sign’s visibility.

Think about the visual space as divided into three tiers:

  • Above one’s head (78 inches, or 6.5 feet above the floor)
  • At eye-level (45 to 66 inches, or 4 to 5.5 feet above the floor)
  • Less than knee-height (4 to 18 inches above the floor)

Location and emergency equipment signage placed at 78 inches high are visible from a distance and to those looking up. “Danger,” “Warning” and “Caution” signs are most effective at eye-level and where employees perform tasks or operate equipment. To maintain visibility even under smoky conditions, place wayfinding signs and path-markers on the floor, or no higher than 18 inches.

Words and Colors

High-contrast safety signs are a good way to prevent safety sign “blind spots.” Signage with bold type, bright colors and thick borders are more likely to capture workers’ attention. The symbols, lettering and background colors should be determined by the severity of the hazard.

OSHA/ANSI Hazard Classification

Safety Alert Symbol?

Signal Word Lettering

Background Color

Danger: Death or serious injury




Warning: Reduced risk of death or serious injury




Caution: Risk of minor or moderate injury




Notice: Pictograms for work practices



(blue header)

Exit Signs




Directional Signs



(black panel)

Standardized and customized signs also can provide consistency throughout work locations and reinforce your company’s brand identity and core values. Safety graphics can help motivate employees, create a culture of pride, and communicate trust, belonging and caring.

Beyond OSHA compliance, injury prevention, instruction and direction, safety signage can help to create a positive work environment for all.

Tony Spearing

Tony Spearing is the senior director of commercial operations, North America, safety and production, at Thermo Fisher Scientific.

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