Top Safety Symbols and Their Meanings

Significance and Meaning of Commonly Used Safety Symbols

Health and safety signs are used to provide information so that they are understood by everyone irrespective of their language expertise. Safety symbols are standardised and are used to convey vital information about exits and evacuation routes, warnings about potential hazards, and instructions such as wearing respiratory equipment like Full Face Respirators.

This post describes the meanings of a few of the top symbols explains why safety symbols must be used.

What are Safety Signs and Signboards?

Safety symbols are required to warn and inform you of the possible risks that can cause serious health issues or injuries.

A safety or health sign informs and instructs the workers using boards, illuminated signs, colours, acoustic signals, and hand and verbal signals. A signboard can have symbols or pictograms, and supplementary text to provide information. A combination of symbols and acoustic signals can also be used to effectively instruct and warn the workers.

Different Colours of Symbols and Their Meanings

Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green are the colours used in safety signs to notify the workers about rules and risks. Here are the meanings of these four colours

    • Red Symbols
      • Category: Prohibition Sign or Danger Alarm
      • Information: Dangerous Behaviour, Stop,shutdown, Emergency cut-out devices, Evacuate
      • Description: Usually round with a thick edge and a thick diagonal line over a black and white picture illustrating the behaviour prohibited.
    • Yellow or Amber Symbols
      • Category: Warning Sign
      • Information: Be careful, take precautions, examine
      • Description: These hazard signs must be mostly yellow or amber with thick black edges with a clear symbol of the hazard within them.
    • Green Symbols
      • Category: Emergency escape, First-aid sign, No danger
      • Information: Doors, exits, escape routes,
        equipment and facilities, Return to normal
      • Description: Rectangular or square shape with a white pictogram on green background
    • Blue Symbols
      • Category: Mandatory Sign
      • Information: Specific behaviour or action
      • Description: Circular in shape, these signs are mostly blue with white symbols or text depicting the instruction.

Common Symbols and Their Meanings

    • Prohibitory Signs

Some of the common prohibitory signs used are 






Eye and Skin Irritant

Skin sensitizer

Acute toxicity

Respiratory tract irritant

Hazardous to ozone layer

Narcotic effects



Mobile phones are prohibited


Health hazards such as

Target organ toxicity


Reproductive toxicity

Aspiration toxicity



Skin corrosion or burns

Damage to eye

Corrosive to metals


Smoking is Prohibited


Acute toxicity


    • Warning Signs

 Some of the commonly used warning signs are




Hot Surface



Flammable Materials



Biological Hazard



Radioactive Material



Sudden Loud Noise



Falling objects Hazard 



Corrosive Hazard

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, FFP3 dust mask, safety overalls can help in shielding against biological, chemical, and other hazards in the workplace.

    • Emergency Escape and First-aid Sign

Some of the commonly used Emergency escape and First-aid signs are






Emergency Assembly Point




Emergency Exit



Emergency Stairs




Location of First Aid Box



Emergency Spill Kit


Emergency Eye Wash  


Emergency Shower


    • Mandatory Signs

Some of the commonly used mandatory signs are




Wear eye and ear protection


Mask required


Foot Protection


Face shield and eye protection


Wear protective clothing



Wear respiratory Equipment




Wear hard hat

Wearing helmets, goggles, and dust masks may be mandatory in some workplaces and signs must remind ad urge the workers to wear them.

    • Fire Safety Signs

A fire safety sign provides information on emergency exits and escape routes and in the event of a fire. It also provides information on the location of firefighting equipment issues warning in terms of acoustic signals or illuminated signs.

The fire safety signboard or equipment background is red, and equipment also is red in colour. The signboard must be large enough so that it can be easily located.

Fire alarms are required to alert the workers to any fire outbreak before it gets dangerous. An evacuation plan must be in place and all the workers must be made aware of the plan. The acoustic signal for a fire alarm should have a higher sound level than the level of ambient noise and must be recognisable and unique from other acoustic signals and ambient noise.

Fire Safety signboards are generally green like the one seen below.


Safety Sign Requirements at Workplace

Here are some of the requirements specified by Safety Regulations for safety signboards 

  • The visibility of the signs should not be affected by the presence of any emission source.
  • Too many signs should not be close to one another.
  • Two acoustic signals must not be used at the same time.
  • In work environments where there is too much ambient noise, acoustic signals cannot be used.
  • An illuminated sign must not be placed close to another illuminated source.
  • Signs must be regularly be cleaned, checked, and maintained to ensure normal functioning
  • Supplementary signs must be placed for workplaces where the workers may have vision impairment or hearing problems.

Educating the workers about how to interpret the signboards is crucial to effectively communicate the warning or information about the risks. Workers should also be encouraged to wear protective equipment wherever required so that they can prevent injuries and diseases caused due to workplace hazards.