Electrical panels create dangerous environments with various risks, including electric shock and arc flash hazards—so it is imperative that these areas feature clear visual cues and labels. OSHA and other safety entities offer advice and requirements for labeling electrical panels, and individual facilities may include sufficient labeling in existing visual communication strategies. Learn about safety requirements for electrical panels including safety notices and clearances, and discover the best options for labeling these areas to avoid OSHA fines for non-compliance.
Importance of Electrical Panel Visual Cues
Clear labels are required for electrical panels to ensure your location complies with OSHA, preventing fines. While marking these areas is a seemingly simple task, electrical violations are actually one of the most common OSHA violations. From worn or unclear signage to clutter surrounding the electrical panels, there are numerous ways this standard may be missed. Simply labeling panels is not enough: Your visual cues must follow the guidance of governing safety entities for the best results.
Properly marked electrical panels are key in avoiding audit failures, but these visual cues also improve overall safety by:
- Alerting employees and visitors to hazards
- Keeping the area clear for maintenance or other electrical work
- Ensuring safe operation of equipment and panels
- Preventing unauthorized people from entering restricted areas
Electrical Panel Safety Requirements
Visual cues for electrical safety notices must follow OSHA, American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) requirements. While not a complete list, some electrical safety labeling requirements include:
- For systems over 600 volts, permanent “High Voltage” markings are required.
- Lockout/Tagout standards require warnings for electrical hazards when equipment is on, in operation, or if opened.
- Electrical panels must be properly marked, which requires labeling for electrical hazards, as well as floor markings that remind employees to keep areas clear of debris, clutter, equipment, and trash.
- OSHA requires that electrical equipment be labeled with descriptive markings, as explained in Standard 1910.335¹:
1910.335(b): Alerting techniques. The following alerting techniques shall be used to warn and protect employees from hazards which could cause injury due to electric shock, burns, or failure of electric equipment parts:
1910.335(b)(1) Safety signs and tags. Safety signs, safety symbols, or accident prevention tags shall be used where necessary to warn employees about electrical hazards which may endanger them, as required by 1910.145.
OSHA Electrical Panel Clearance Requirements
Allowing clearance in front of electrical panels not only leaves adequate space for inspections, maintenance, and repairs but prevents other people in the area from getting too close to shock hazards. OSHA electrical panel clearance requirements stated in 1910.303² dictate how much space is necessary around electrical equipment as follows:
- Working space width is 30 inches or the equipment width—whichever is greater
- Electrical panel doors must be able to hinge open 90 degrees
- Floor-to-ceiling space must be at least 6.5 feet high
- Area around the panel may not include storage for any other items
When work is being performed on the electrical panel, additional measures may be employed to maintain proper clearances. Per OSHA standards, barricades may be used to prevent contact with electrical hazards and to block unintended access, and safety attendants may be necessary where hazard markings aren’t sufficient.
Items that are allowed within the working boundaries of the electrical panel, switchboard, or other equipment can include sprinkler protection control or exhaust systems in certain scenarios. Fire extinguisher clearances by OSHA (Standard 1910.157³) for portable equipment do not change near electrical panels and these tools must remain readily available, within 75 feet, without impeding the work area.
While there are some allowances within the standards when it comes to clearances for electrical panels in older constructions, you should always refer to OSHA standards to confirm requirements.
Color Standards for Electrical Safety
While there is some flexibility within the standards to allow each facility to set safety color schemes, some specific requirements exist. Fire safety colors must comply with set standards: Red is used to indicate danger, including fire-related hazards and flammable liquids, and to label emergency stop or fire equipment.
Industrial Electrical Panel Labeling Tips and Tricks
Clear visual cues and relevant floor markings are important for electrical safety compliance. Allowing enough space around the electrical panel is also important for access and repair purposes. Always ensure you’re following OSHA standards and other requirements when applying floor markings or implementing a visual communication that stipulates clearances and access specifics.
Combine Standard and Custom Messaging
When considering facility safety and strategy, floor markings are indispensable tools—especially when you consider the possibilities afforded by custom-printed signs and floor marking tape. Important safety notices, including Do Not Cross, Caution, and other repeating message tape, help provide clear instructions and cues to employees and visitors, but sometimes the standard message isn’t enough.
In these situations, combining custom graphics and text can improve understanding and provide better instructions for a safer environment. Give additional details with text and graphics that convey the right message for improved safety for all. This may include process and Lean methodology messaging, warnings of hazards in specific areas, or notices of items that may become problematic in certain situations—such as weather-related electrical risks, flammable materials or liquids, or impact dangers.
Pre-Cut Floor Marking Kits Save Time
While cutting and applying colored strips of floor marking tape isn’t a gargantuan task on its own, if you have multiple electrical panels or must reapply your floor markings regularly, pre-cut floor marking kits can cut application time—and the purpose-built messages ensure you’re providing clear information regarding requirements and expectations. Pre-cut kits include descriptive text and easy-to-understand graphics and come in color combinations created for each intended use.
Our pre-cut electrical panel floor marking sign and border kits comply with OSHA regulation 1910.303 and ensure high visibility in electrical panel areas. Choose from rubber or vinyl types, depending on facility needs—the puzzle-cut edges fit together perfectly, beveled edges send traffic up and over the floor markings to prevent damage, and recessed adhesive offers a durable, long-lasting stick for longevity in industrial spaces. Additionally, our pre-cut kits are sized to meet OSHA requirements, so there is no question about whether or not you’re in compliance.
To install pre-cut electrical safety signs, follow these steps:
- Peel and stick the bottom middle section of floor marking tape
- Align the puzzle-cut edges on the left side
- Align the third strip to create a three-sided box
- Peel and stick the floor sign in the center of the box to provide further safety information
When applying visual cues for safety, marking electrical panels and hazards is an important step. Follow these tips and research the requirements as you mark your facility. Explore our Resource Center for more tips for visual cues and floor tape application.
¹ OSHA standards: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.335
² OSHA standards: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.303
³ OSHA standards: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.157