Proposed OSHA Consensus Standard Update to Rules on Signage, an Issue Championed by Clarion Safety Systems, Marks Important Advancement Towards Improving Workplace Safety

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Clarion CEO Geoffrey Peckham’s ongoing leadership efforts in bolstering adoption by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the updated American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) standards leads to proposed consensus standard update on signage; March 2013 Meeting of OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health Provides Insight on Scope of Final Rule.

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Clarion Safety Systems helps companies reduce risk and protect people with best practice, standards-compliant safety labels, safety signs, and safety markings.

This is an important first step by OSHA in advancing workplace safety through effective signage. Safety signage – when done well and through the application of the latest best practice warnings technology – is key to reducing injuries and incidents.

Clarion Safety Systems, a leading designer of visual safety solutions, announced today that its efforts to promote the use of industry best practices related to safety signs, colors and tags to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has resulted in what will soon be announced by OSHA as a proposed update to its regulations.

Geoffrey Peckham, CEO of Clarion Safety Systems and a longstanding leader in advancing best practices in visual safety communication, has championed an update to OSHA’s consensus standards to better align with the latest advances in safety sign technology. Over the last four years, together with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Peckham has lobbied OSHA to recognize that the American National Standards Institute’s ANSI Z535 series of standards for safety colors, signs and tags provide an equal or greater level of safety as compared to the 1967-68 USASI Z53 and Z35 standards that are presently referenced in OSHA’s regulations.

“This is an important first step by OSHA when it comes to advancing workplace safety through effective signage. Safety signage – when done well and through the application of the latest best practice warnings technology – is key to reducing workplace injuries and incidents,” says Peckham, who also serves as chair of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors and chair and delegation head for ANSI to the ISO standards pertaining to safety signs.

According to OSHA, the goal of the safety sign rulemaking update is to improve workplace safety and health by allowing employers to use the latest consensus safety sign standards (ANSI Z535) in order to take advantage of the safety communication benefits that the newer standards represent. When compared to the older 1967-1968 standards, the ANSI Z535 standards are considered the state-of-the-art because of they have the following characteristics:

  •      Provide critical information viewers need in order to make safe decisions, such as the nature of the hazard, the consequence of interaction with the hazard, and how to avoid the hazard

  •      Are supported by human factors research on effective warnings and by modern risk assessment methodologies for accurately communicating hazard severity

  •      Have the ability to use multiple language panels and graphical symbol panels to communicate safety to non-English speaking workers

  •      Meet current legal criteria for “adequate warnings” as defined by the past thirty years of U.S. case law

Since most employers currently use signs that comply with the older 1967-1968 standards, and because OSHA aimed to avoid creating an economic burden to employers, the older 1967-1968 standards will continue to be referenced in OSHA’s regulations. The change is that the corresponding ANSI Z535-2011 reference will be placed next to the older reference; wherever the OSHA standards reference the 1968 USASI Z35.1 Standard for Accident Prevention Signs, the 2011 ANSI Z535.2 Standard for Environmental and Facility Safety Signs will also be referenced. In effect, this will allow employers to use safety signs that comply with either the old or the new standards.

Prior to this rule change taking effect, employers using the newer ANSI Z535 standards for their signage would run the risk of being cited for violating OSHA standards. The outcome of this violation would not result in a fine due to the fact that the ANSI Z535 standards are the current version of the document that was used as the basis for OSHA’s safety sign regulations. Called a “de minimus situation,” this provision provides little incentive for employers to adopt the latest industry best practices with regards to safety signs, colors and tags. The new rule that incorporates ANSI Z535 safety sign, color and tag references into OSHA standards will eliminate this approach, allowing employers to use the ANSI Z535 standards without the possibility of a citation.

The new change is currently in a “proposed rule stage.” OSHA held a special meeting of the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. on March 18, 2013. ACCSH advises the secretary of labor and assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health on construction standards and policy matters. The ACCSH’s approval is required before proceeding on a final rule which would affect the series of OSHA standards related to construction. The proposed safety sign rule discussion at the March 18 meeting, which Peckham attended and provided public comment on, ended with unanimous approval by all members present. The administration expects to publish a Direct Final Rule (DFR) con-currently with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in April 2013. If OSHA does not receive significant adverse public comments on the DFR, it will confirm the effective date of the DFR and withdraw the NPRM.

To help safety advocates to learn more about the ANSI standards, as part of its comprehensive library of short, educational videos designed to promote a better understanding of current best practices in product safety labeling and facility sign systems, Clarion has a produced a video titled, “ANSI Standards in Safety Signs and Labels.” The video is available through the Clarion website’s video library as well as through the company’s YouTube channel.

Clarion Safety Systems, LLC, is the leading designer and manufacturer of visual safety solutions that help customers in more than 180 industries worldwide to make their products and premises safer. Clarion offers a full range of standard and custom products including machinery safety labels, environmental and facility safety signs, pipe and valve identification markings, lockout/tagout products, and safety-grade photoluminescent egress path-marking escape systems. Founded in 1990, the company continues to play a leading role in the development and writing of international and national standards for safety signs, labels, and markings. Clarion is headquartered at 190 Old Milford Road in Milford, PA, 18337, and online at

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Erin Earley
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