Effectively communicating hazards is crucial for activities engaged with machinery. The reasoning for this is simple: hazards will always be present. However, it is inadequate for product safety labels to be left entirely to the manufacturer’s discretion; instead, a shared structure for the colors and symbols on safety labels has long been necessary for conveying dangers in a manner comprehensible by the average worker.
Since the early 1990s, ANSI Z535.4 has been the overarching standard for safety symbols, limiting any ambiguity that could potentially lead to disastrous misunderstandings. Other standards in the ANSI Z535 series, developed by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), expand upon additional aspects of product safety signs and labels, including safety colors, sign criteria, environmental safety signs, safety tags, and information in product manuals.
Just like other American National Standards, ANSI Z535 standards are subject to a periodic review process, and, in result, ANSI Z535.1 has been revised. The other ANSI Z535 standards have been reaffirmed. The current version of the safety colors standard is ANSI Z535.1-2017: Safety Colors.
ANSI Z535.1-2017 establishes a uniform system for specifying safety colors, and it harmonizes with ISO 3864-4. While it is beyond the scope of this standard to give in-depth instructions for color measurements or address the color of safety sign, label, or tag substrates, it does help to implement a system through Munsell notations (the appearance of color expressed through hue, value, and chroma), CIE colorimetric data (mathematically plotted color map), defined chromaticity regions, and color formulas.
These aspects are used for each ANSI and ISO safety color used on safety signs, labels, and signs. Through this, the material covered within ANSI Z535.1-2017 supports the other standards of the ANSI Z535 series.
Some of the primary changes present in ANSI Z535.1-2017 exist to make the standard more user-friendly and easy to understand, something that surely is important for a document intended to relay hazard information clearly. Definitions have been included so readers have a basic understanding of references included throughout the standard, and the normative body of the document has been simplified. Furthermore, greater emphasis has been placed on what can affect a safety color’s appearance and cause it to fall outside the acceptable tolerance limits, and fluorescent safety color information has been updated.
Also in meeting the need to be more user-friendly, several new annexes have also been added to ANSI Z535.1-2017. Annex A clarifies the color boundaries for Safety Yellow; Annex B illustrates ANSI safety colors in relation to ISO safety colors; Annex C contains color cross-reference tables; Annex D demonstrates ISO safety colors and contrast colors of ordinary materials; Annex E illustrates the Munsell Hue Circle.
Some alterations made to ANSI Z535.1-2017 exist to improve upon its guidelines, and not just clarify them. For example, Safety Gray and Safety Brown have been eliminated from Table 1 in the new revision, as, even though they may be in use by other signage systems, these two colors are not considered hazard alerting colors for accident prevention.
Numerous changes to the updated document derive from ANSI Z535.1-2017 harmonizing with Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49 Transportation, §172.407, Labeling Specifications. Multiple tables have been replaced in the document. The Munsell Notations and chromaticity coordinates are now identical in both the CFR Table 1 and ANSI Z535.1, with the exception of how color is described. Additionally, the PANTONE colors originally specified in 2002 for the Safety Color Chart have been changed to harmonize with the PANTONE colors specified in the CFR.
ANSI Z535.1-2017: Safety Colors is available on the ANSI Webstore.