While you might think otherwise, you do not and cannot know everything. In our world, there are so many different products for many uses, and if any single person were to examine every one of them, he or she would discover something that had purposes or considerations that he or she did not know of before. Product safety labels provide product users with the information they need to utilize a product without bringing any harm to themselves or others. We need to place a great deal of faith into these product labels, making the assumption that they are not only giving us all of the information we need to safely interact with a product, but also that we are able to understand the message that the label is conveying to us. Luckily, standards have ensured that product safety labels properly reflect the threats that they address by using colors and appropriate symbols that are comprehensible to most people.
The ANSI/NEMA Z535 Product Safety Package is a collection of the following standards for product safety symbols:
ANSI Z535.3-2022 – Criteria for safety symbols
ANSI Z535.4-2011(R2017) – Product safety signs and labels
ANSI Z535.6-2011(R2017) – Product safety information in product manuals, instructions, and other collateral materials
Together, these standards tackle many different considerations relating to the design of product labels. A major one of these is the fact that in America, there is a myriad of people who derive from a variety of cultures. Because of this, none of the standards in this package recommend the use of words alone to convey a message. Additionally, the multicultural landscape of the nation can present some difficulties when using a symbol that is much more abstract, since one thing that is symbolic of an idea to one person might not be interpreted the same way by another. In fact, using abstract symbols can be problematic for all people if they create a tenuous connection between the symbol and its index, so representational symbols will often be better understood.
Another major consideration in safety symbols is color. Specific colors are reflective of different precautions that need to be taken in relation to a product. For example, red and orange are very alerting colors, and can be used to indicate warnings or uses that are prohibited. Choices in color, style, consistency between symbols, and size determine the overall legibility of the symbols, which allows them to reduce hazards for the users. All of these concepts must be deliberate in the creation of safety symbols for them to properly convey their meaning.