Good Morning Team,
Scientists have estimated that human eyes are capable of distinguishing about 7,000,000 colors. If you’ve ever tried to choose a paint color for a room in your home, you’ll probably agree that it feels like many times more than that are offered! And even when you pare down your selection to a certain color spectrum the choices seem limitless.
Let’s suppose you want to paint something white. Well….they’re enough shades of white to make your head spin. And since they all have to be named something, paint manufacturers have come up with some pretty creative ‘White’ monikers, such as; Pure, Extra, Intense, Simply, Super, Antique, Pearl, Off, School House, Moon Light, Cloud, Alabaster, Swiss Coffee, Chantilly Lace, Bone, Almond, Ballet, and String to name just a few. Head spinning yet?
Those who study the psychology of color have discovered that it can increase certain brain activity and affect our very human nature. Take the color yellow as an example; it can cause people to feel joyful, optimistic, and inspired. It can stimulate the nervous system and even trigger memories. Since it is a long-wavelength color, or the brightest on the visible spectrum, it is also the most noticeable shade to our eyes.
So it should come as no surprise that in the area of safety, the colors used on signs, placards, tools and equipment are meant to grab our attention and along with any wording used, alert us to immediate danger, warn us of risks, provide information on mandatory requirements and direct us to safety equipment. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and OSHA established a nationwide safety color coding system that all businesses must follow. Below are some of those colors and what they represent:
Red is the color of immediate hazards. It signals emergency, fire, danger and directs us to remain alert. It is used on containers of flammable liquids, lights at barricades and obstructions. It is used on equipment stop bars and switches on machinery. Red is also used to highlight areas of fire extinguishing equipment, fire alarm boxes, panels and fire exit signs.
Orange is the color for warnings. OSHA uses orange for dangerous or energized. It is used on the inside of moveable guards and other exposed parts. It warns of unguarded cut, crush, and pinch points. It warns of shock and other hazards that might potentially injure a person.
Yellow is the color of caution, warning of physical hazards like tripping of falling. It can be used to warn of fire, explosion, toxicity and radiation hazards. It’s the color of construction equipment, safety hand and guard rails. Yellow can be used with black checkers or stripes to draw further attention to the hazard. Yellow and Black used together means extra caution is required.
Green is the color of safety. It is used to signify safe areas in a workplace. It is used to mark locations of first aid supplies, emergency eyewash stations, deluge shower systems, and safety message boards. It can also mark the locations of other safety equipment used for purposes other than preventing fires.
Blue is the color of required action. It means obey! Where red means “DO NOT”, blue means “MUST DO.” Along with the wording or pictogram displayed it can tell you that gloves, eye protection, or other PPE must be worn. It can warn you that a piece of equipment in need of or under repair and should not be used. This prevents accident or injury to workers or further damage to the equipment or property.
Purple or Magenta are used to designate radiation hazards. While it is unlikely that we will encounter these hazards in our workplaces it is important for us to be aware. It is often used in conjunction with yellow striping on tags, labels, signs, and floor markers.
Black & White
Typically the colors of instruction and generally informational, they’re used for signs directing traffic and housekeeping markings, dead ends of aisles or passageways, stairways, directional signs, and identifying refuse cans.
Keep in mind though that the above colors, as well as many more, can be used on other items to represent warnings and danger too. Piping systems have their own OSHA/ANSI color requirements and though they generally follow the color designations list above in degree of hazard, they do differ in some cases. They will however, also contain text in a contrasting color to further delineate the contents. A red pipe with white text, for example, means that it contains fire quenching materials, though that may be something other than water. A blue pipe with white text on the other hand, will represent compressed air. Always know what you’re looking at and ask if you are ever unsure.
Just make sure that you never ignore those colors of safety and the wording on signs meant to help keep us from harm.
Have great week and be safe!
Raymond D. Moore
Director of Facilities Services