When using caution and warning floor markings as visual safety cues in your facility, follow best practices for messaging, placement, and design to ensure effectiveness, clarity, and durability. Beyond accident prevention, there are many benefits to using visual safety cues in the workplace, including Increased productivity, fewer bottlenecks, and greater employee satisfaction. Here, we cover the differences between standard safety messages and offer best practices for implementing caution and warning signage throughout your space. 

How to Choose the Right Warning Sign 

While the terms “caution,” “warning,” and “danger” seem to have similar meanings, they each represent a distinct level of risk when used in warehouses, industrial environments, and other facilities where ANSI and OSHA mandates apply. Understanding the difference between these three terms is important in choosing the right signal word and color standard for floor markings throughout your facility.

Meaning Color
Danger If the hazard is not avoided, death or serious injury will result. Red, with black or white text and graphics
Warning If the warning is not heeded, death or serious injury can occur. Orange
Caution Risk of minor or moderate injury present. Yellow with Black Text

Use “CAUTION” language and yellow colors for signage indicating the risk of minor or moderate injury, such as an uneven surface or slippery floors. “WARNING” floor tape and signs are reserved for circumstances at an in-between level of severity; for example, when there is a risk of falling objects or machine-related injuries. While “DANGER” should be used judiciously to indicate only the most serious risks, “WARNING” and “CAUTION” messaging are much more common throughout industrial facilities and public spaces where hazards are present. For these, consider the different types of signs and tape available to convey your central message and any supporting instructions.

Provide Specific Details with Caution and Warning Signs

Even when adhering to OSHA and ANSI standards, color alone doesn’t adequately communicate risk information. Effective warning and caution signs feature one or more of the following elements:

  • Signal word (“CAUTION” or “WARNING,” as appropriate)
  • Universal symbol
  • Text with additional context

Signs with only a signal word or universally recognized symbol communicate key information at a glance, while custom safety signage with additional text provides context and important warning information.

Expand Safety Messaging with Floor Marking Tape

For stronger safety messaging, pair floor marking tape with signs to create detailed visual communication. Some options include: 

  • Hazard stripe tape: A common floor marking tape option that supports caution and warning messaging and offers an immediate visual cue that extra care should be taken. Use hazard stripes to mark the edges of loading docks, define the boundaries of dangerous areas, or mark protruding corners or other obstacles.
  • Repeating message tape: Reinforce signal words such as “WARNING” or “CAUTION” with tape printed with a repeating phrase or word. Custom options can be printed with additional text or graphics to provide context or instructions.
  • Glow-in-the-dark tape: Glowing tape can be paired with signs or used alone to convey safety information in dark or dimly lit facilities or areas and to mark exit routes, stairwells, changes in elevation, or railings to aid in case of emergency evacuation or power outages.
  • Reflective tape: Ideal in dim or dark areas or parking lots, reflective tape can be used to make hazards easier to spot. It can mark edges or low clearance areas, be applied to corners and edges of machinery, and draw attention to dangerous areas or specific risks.

Best Practices for Effective Floor Markings

Prioritize clarity and visibility when designing and implementing floor markings for safety. In addition to relevant standards, let safety best practices for warehouses, manufacturing plants, and industrial facilities inform your effective use of caution and warning signs.

Adhere to Relevant Safety Standards

OSHA, ANSI, and NFPA, along with state and local governments, all outline regulations for the safety of employees in industrial facilities or public spaces. Clear and concise messaging can improve compliance and help increase understanding, preventing accidents and related legal ramifications. Managers and warehouse owners must stay current on regulatory changes. When it’s time to make updates for continued compliance, Superior Mark® tape and signs are easy to remove, replace, and adjust as standards or needs evolve.

Design for Visibility

Caution and warning signs that incorporate universal symbols, follow established color standards, and use appropriate font sizes ensure maximum clarity in hazard prevention messaging. OSHA and ANSI dictate that signal words on safety signs must be visible from at least five feet away—but having the text visible from a greater distance can provide even better messaging.

Consider the Environment

Environmental factors are key when choosing which floor marking tape or sign to install. Glow-in-the-dark, high-visibility, or reflective safety markings are ideal in dark, dim, or variable lighting conditions, while specialty products like freezer tape adhere well in cold storage or near outdoor loading docks where temperatures may drop below freezing. Pavement signs are designed for use in parking areas, loading docks, or other locations that are exposed to rain, snow, sun, and other elements. Rubber or epoxy floor signs are ideal for more permanent installation, while adhesive-backed vinyl floor signs and tape are durable and withstand heavy traffic, but can be removed and replaced as needed.

Pay Attention to Placement

Whether you’re adding warning signs for wet floors or installing floor marking tape for electrical hazards, placement is of the utmost importance. OSHA and ANSI require that:

  1. Individuals must be able to see the sign before they are in danger, and
  2. The sign should be as close to the hazard as possible.

The best sign placement for pedestrian walkways will differ from that needed for chemical hazards, so carefully consider each unique application to determine the best approach. Floor tape can supplement warning and caution signs to improve the effectiveness of visual cues and messaging: Outline clearance areas around potential hazards, such as at electrical panels or where there is potential for items to be dropped from above, using custom floor marking tape for better hazard communication.

Ensure Proper Maintenance of Floor Marking Tape and Signs

Even the most durable floor marking products are susceptible to wear and tear over time, which impacts safety. Regularly inspect floor signs and tape for damage, including rips, tears, wrinkling, and lifted edges, and re-install cues right away, as needed. Check also for text and graphics that have worn off or become obscured.

To prevent damage and make your markings last longer, follow best practices for floor marking tape maintenance, including paying attention to problem areas and adjusting the application or placement as necessary. 

Caution and warning floor markings with standard messaging or custom text and graphics are ideal for implementing visual safety cues in manufacturing facilities, industrial environments, and warehouses. For more on choosing and using Superior Mark® products to improve workplace safety and support your on-site objectives, explore our Resource Center.