Using standardized color codes to support visual communication throughout a facility can be vital in improving safety and boosting productivity. Color-coded labels and easy-to-understand graphics help staff and visitors spot hazards and avoid accidents more quickly than text-based warnings alone. Implement specific colors of floor tape, labels, and signage to help improve employee compliance with safety standards, including government-mandated Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards or non-mandated American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines.
How to Use Color for a Safer Facility
As each facility has different needs, there are various ways to implement color-coding and visual cues in the workplace. Here, we cover the basics for using color and graphics to create a safe, sustainable, and effective facility.
OSHA Color Use Standards & ANSI Recommendations
OSHA, under the Department of Labor, sets the standards for safe working conditions, including fines for violations. While there are no required color schemes for most of the mandated guidelines, OSHA designates red and yellow to carry specific meanings and offers recommendations for using orange and orange-red. Additional color guidelines come from ANSI—and, while ANSI is not legally mandated, the system is thorough and useful in many facilities.
We have consolidated recommendations from OSHA, ANSI, and other industry experts into what we believe to be the best practices for color coding. Compare how colors are used under ANSI and OSHA in the following chart:
|Color||ANSI Color Associations||OSHA Color Standards||Possible Applications|
|Red||Danger, immediate hazards, or flammable liquids; emergency stop buttons, switches, or levers||Stop or Danger
Used to mark fire hazards, flammable liquids, and fire protection equipment
|Stop signs & bars, fire protection equipment, sprinklers, etc.|
|Orange||Warning labels, hazards, and work zones||Warning level between “Danger” and “Caution”||Machinery, energized equipment|
|Fluorescent Orange||No assigned meaning||Biological hazards such as infectious waste, contaminated PPE, needles, and other medical waste||Usually accompanied by a biohazard symbol and text|
|Yellow||Communicates warnings, signals caution||Designates hazardous areas, urges cautions, indicates physical hazards||Walkways, aisles, physical hazards such as tripping or falling points.|
|Green||Health and safety information, first aid||No assigned meaning; defer to ANSI guidelines||Marking the location of first aid supplies, safety equipment, eye wash stations, showers, or safety information|
|Blue||Safety precautions and non-emergency notices||No assigned meaning|
|No assigned meaning, at the facility’s discretion||No assigned meaning|
|Stripes or Patterns of Two Contrasting Colors||Attention||No assigned meaning||Used to bring attention to special areas with potential hazards, such as dead ends or platform edges|
The association of “red means stop, yellow means caution” applies outside of industrial facilities and workplaces—think stop signs and traffic lights. This daily use means these colors can be interpreted quickly, which can be imperative for safety.
But the use of yellow is not limited to hazards. While its designation as a caution label is stated by the OSHA standard, yellow is often used to mark aisles and passageways, such as traffic routes for machinery or to establish walking paths for foot traffic.
Best Methods for Marking Color-Coded Visual Cues
While the means of marking is not specified by OSHA, floor tape is a cost-effective solution that installs easily, requires no dry time, and withstands heavy traffic. Industrial floor-marking tape can be used to improve OSHA and ANSI compliance throughout a facility, including for labeling:
- Safe clearances and limits in aisles, at docking bays, loading docks, doorways, and passageways
- Storage for containers, equipment, and housekeeping supplies
- Dangers such as trip and fall hazards, open pits, tanks, and vats
- Risk of electric shock or fire hazards
- Evacuation routes
Use Standardized Colors to Create Safer Workplaces
While there are relatively few designated color standards, a consistent color scheme helps keep facilities safe and productive. As long as you follow any OSHA requirements, you may choose to create your own color standards that combine OSHA and ANSI guidelines with solutions that make sense for your location. When there is a deviation from normal use, ensure the color-coding system is included in training and that a color guide is easily accessible to all employees.
Aside from using tape to mark aisles, visual cues for health and safety can include floor tape, barrier markings, signage, and pre-cut floor marking kits. Color-wrapped posts or wall signage in tandem with floor markers can help a first aid kit, eyewash station, fire extinguisher, or OSHA-required SDS datasheets stand out.
Using Graphics and Text in Visual Workplaces
Complement color-coded safety instructions with meaningful graphics and easy-to-read text to aid in training new employees, improve efficiency, and promote safety for visitors. While long-term employees may understand the color system in place, using graphics and text reinforces the message and helps everyone understand the danger. Whether you use floor signs or repeating message tape, letters and symbols should always appear in colors that contrast against the background for best visibility. Examples of situations where graphics, shapes, and text are useful include:
- Footprints and arrows along commonly traveled paths to help people find their way.
- Informative signage that provides instructions for machinery use and requirements.
- Safety messages to bring attention to hazards with “caution” or “warning” text and relevant instructions.
- Exit and egress markings and signage used to clearly mark pathways to indicate safe exits or evacuation routes.
Evaluate the facility prior to implementing a visual strategy. What concerns or challenges do you face? Request input from floor supervisors, but also consider suggestions from the staff, analyze current methods, and develop a plan to improve workflow—rather than complicate it.
Visually Organized Floor Layouts
Organizational systems like Lean and 5S rely on color-coding to improve workflow, boost efficiency, reduce waste, and promote safe practices on the job. Common uses for color-coded floor tape for visual organization and safety include:
- Assigning equipment storage spaces
- Marking facility floor layouts
- Designating pathways for foot traffic
- Indicating traveled zones
- Creating one-way traffic flow
Painting floor markings is time-consuming, requires dry time, and is difficult to change. Floor tape applies easily, withstands heavy traffic, and removes without residue—allowing the opportunity for continuous improvement by adjusting layouts to suit improved workflows.
Training for a Productive Visual Facility
A visual workplace does not replace targeted training—while clearly marked floors and informative signage assist employees, instruction is required to understand the methods and meaning of color-coded floor markings and hazard signage. Implement a training program to ensure clarity regarding the messages being communicated and to motivate staff to improve safety and compliance. Consider these tips for training employees for a visual facility:
- Keep it straightforward: It’s easier to understand a simple plan than a complex process.
- Share the goals of the training so employees understand the importance of the methods.
- Use relevant examples and real-world experiences to highlight the value of the training.
- Train new staff right away, and host annual refresher training sessions for current staff members.
- Ask for feedback. The employees on the floor may have suggestions for how to improve workflow; listen and respond to feedback, adjust as necessary.
Improve the safety and efficiency of your industrial facility with color-coded floor markings, supplementary signage, and relevant training. Implementing visual cues empowers employees to comply with OSHA requirements and facility-wide protocols. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to safety: Create an effective workflow and safe environment with floor marking tape, signage, and streamlined processes specific to your needs. For more on improving the efficiency and safety of your workplace, explore our Resource Center.