Hazardous Chemicals, Occupational Safety

ISO 7010 symbols: How the international standard can help you implement the right safety signs

Facts about key safe condition, prohibition, mandatory, warning, and fire protection signs

6 minutes02/02/2022

From a black exclamation point on a yellow background to a lit match with a line through it and a white fire extinguisher beside a blazing fire: symbols that warn us of hazards, prohibit actions or recommend specific measures are permanent fixtures in workplaces and in everyday life. All of these safety signs and symbols are regulated in the ISO 7010 standard. Since its introduction in 2012, it has standardized the use of occupational health and safety symbols internationally. ISO 7010 sets out requirements and standards for the use of safe condition, prohibition, mandatory, warning, and fire protection signs. In this article, we will outline the most important aspects of this standard and give an overview of the symbols it regulates. 

Introduction and development of ISO 7010

ISO 7010 was first published in 2012 by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), with a new version released in 2020. Since then, ISO 7010 has applied throughout the European Union (EU). The external appearance and design of ISO 7010 symbols is based on ISO 3864, which precisely defines the permitted color and shape of safety signs and symbols. In total, the standard now comprises over 150 different symbols that can be used in various situations and provide support for every occupational safety management. 

ISO 7010 compared to the American ANSI Z535 standard

In the USA, the equivalent to ISO 7010 is ANSI Z535, which also sets out a system for safety symbols and signs. Although ANSI Z535 is not binding in the EU, implementing both standards can make sense – especially for companies with international operations and a workforce comprising employees from different countries and cultures.

Categories of ISO 7010 symbols

The symbols defined in ISO 7010 are divided into five categories: safe condition signs, prohibition signs, mandatory signs, warning signs, and fire protection signs. The symbols pertain to a wide range of different situations and have different applications, which is why the standard includes so many symbols. If occupational safety measures are to be effective and legally compliant, symbols and signs must be clearly defined and known to managers and employees. A more detailed description of the categories and their areas of application can help to clarify their use:

  • Warning sign: Marks areas where there is a specific hazard
  • Prohibition sign: Prohibits hazardous actions or behavior; in some cases these concern legal prohibitions
  • Fire protection sign: Indicates measures and/or devices or firefighting resources for fire protection purposes
  • Mandatory sign: Provides requirements for safe behavior or specific protective equipment or clothing
  • Safe condition sign: Marks escape and rescue equipment, devices and routes

Categorizing ISO 7010 pictograms

Many current safety symbols have been carried over from previous versions of the standard. Any changes that are made are noted when revisions are released. These revisions retain the fundamental design of the pictogram and, in most cases, involve stylizing, simplifying or amending the illustrations. Symbols are assigned an identification letter and differ in shape and color depending on their field of application.

Warning sign

  • Field of application: Marking hazardous areas
  • Identification letter (ISO 7010): W
  • Colors: Signal yellow, signal black
  • Shape: Triangular
  • Common examples: General warning sign (ISO 7010-W001), Electricity hazard (ISO 7010-W012)

Prohibition sign

  • Field of application: Indicates prohibited actions
  • Identification letter (ISO 7010):P
  • Colors:  Signal red, signal white
  • Shape: Round
  • Common examples: General prohibition sign (ISO 7010-P001), No open flame (ISO 7010-P003)

Fire protection sign

  • Field of application:   Indicates firefighting resources
  • Identification letter (ISO 7010):F
  • Colors:  Signal red, signal white
  • Shape:  Square
  • Common examples:  Fire extinguisher (ISO 7010-F001)

Mandatory sign

  • Field of application: Indicates required safeguards
  • Identification letter (ISO 7010): M
  • Colors:  Signal blue, signal white
  • Shape: Round
  • Common examples: Wear head protection (ISO 7010-M014), Wear a mask (ISO 7010-M016)

Safe condition sign

  • Field of application: Marks escape and rescue equipment
  • Identification letter (ISO 7010): E
  • Colors: Signal green, signal white
  • Shape: Square/rectangular
  • Common examples: Safety shower (ISO 7010-E012), Emergency exit (ISO 7010-E001)

Special cases and lighting

There are some exceptions to the general categorization of ISO 7010 symbols. For example, safe condition signs can be rectangular instead of square if they include an arrow indicating a direction. This is often the case for safety signs fitted above doors, where the arrow points the way to the nearest escape route or exit. In addition, fire protection and safe condition signs must be equipped with electrical emergency lighting or made from photoluminescent materials so that they can be seen clearly in the dark and in situations with limited visibility. symbols are usually not their designated color when glowing in the dark – but their shape and meaning remain easy to see.

Safety instructions for hazardous chemicals

ISO 7010 symbols are an integral component of most work instructions. An up-to-date database of safety signs and symbols is therefore essential for generating work instructions correctly. Many companies already depend on HSEQ software to assist with this process. Some modern software solutions, like Quentic, make it possible to extrapolate a suitable work instruction based on a risk assessment with just a click of the mouse.

Find out more

Summary

ISO 7010 is the most important international standard for safety signs. It sets out standardized requirements for the pictographic implementation of various safety instructions and signs, particularly in Europe. The standard is firmly established in the working world, so companies need to ensure they take appropriate action when revisions are released and amend their safety signs and work instructions accordingly. Companies can also rely on high-quality HSEQ software to maintain an overview of the standard, manage their use of symbols, keep their signs up to date and ensure that all these signs are easily accessible to those who need them.

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