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Color Coding

What Does Color Coding Mean?

Color coding is a workplace marking system that uses various colors to indicate hazards, convey information, or guide employees. It is designed to be seen and understood even when vision is compromised or reading safety signs is difficult.

Color coding standards are mainly concerned with safety and disaster preparedness.

Safeopedia Explains Color Coding

The requirements for color coding as directed by OSHA's general industry standards are divided into two categories: physical hazards and accident prevention signage and tags.

The color coding requirements for physical hazards are:

  • Red: fire protection equipment, emergency shutdown buttons or switches, flammable liquid containers
  • Yellow: physical risks, such as striking against, stumbling, tripping, falling, or being caught between objects
  • Orange: marking the dangerous parts of machines or energized equipment, especially when guards or enclosures are open
  • Blue: out-of-service equipment
  • Green: the location of safety equipment, conveying safety information (e.g. the location of muster points)
  • Purple, or a combination of purple and yellow: radiation hazards
  • Black and white: designating traffic and housekeeping

Color coding applicable to safety signage and tags, as per OSHA's general industry standards, is as follows:

  • Red signs with lettering or symbols in contrasting colors: immediate danger
  • Orange signs: warning for risks or hazards that are not severe or immediate enough to warrant red signage
  • Yellow signs: added caution required to avoid accidents or injuries
  • Fluorescent orange or red-orange signs: biohazards or toxic chemicals

Color Coding Standards

OSHA requires industries to color code safety equipment location, physical hazards, and protective equipment. Standards 1910.144 and 145 cover signs, their design, and wording for purposes such as danger, caution and safety instructions.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) describes its color codes for safety signs in ANSI Z535.1-2011, which OSHA has also adopted for use on OSHA-compliant signs


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Best PracticesOSHASafety SignsStandardsEmergency Response

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