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Understanding Common PPE Symbols And Their Meanings

Symbols are quite literally everywhere. It’s universally recognised that man and woman graphical symbol mean male and female toilets, or, similarly, a disabled sign near a parking space means parking for disabled persons. The red octagon of the stop sign can be recognised from afar. But PPE symbols are another matter. Those on site might not always know what they mean. 

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Some of the common, universally recognised symbols are shown below. Have a look around and you’ll see numerous examples.


So if everyday symbols are recognisable, what about symbols designed to keep you safe at work? Here’s a quick list of PPE Symbols: A Definitive Glossary to help you learn what means what - to keep you safe and protected at work and wherever you are.


Why were these PPE symbols developed?

Before we dive in, let’s explore why the symbols were developed in the first place. In order to provide some level of standardisation, specifications were put in place for PPE symbols that are recognised across Europe to keep workers safe.


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was founded in 1947 and is a standard-defining body composed of representatives from organisations around the world. ISO headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland, and works in 162 countries as of March 2017. It is backed by the United Nations and Economic and Social Council.  


ISO 3864-2 standards are ISO mandatory symbol labels to inform people of the policies that must be followed. You’ll find these symbols on product identifier labels and data sheets listing the Hazards and the PPE you must wear in order to protect yourself.

Colour symbols and their meanings

In any work environment or public space you’ll see a series of colour symbols to depict dangers, warnings, and let you know where to go: red, yellow, blue, and green labels.


Red labels warn of dangers, and are a round shape edged in red with a black pictogram; these labels indicate the behaviour should stop.


Yellow or Amber labels indicate a warning and are triangular in shape with a yellow background and black edging; these labels indicate where you’ll take precautions.


Blue labels - which will be the focus of this post - indicate mandatory actions where you’ll have to complete a specific behaviour such as wearing personal protective equipment and they’re round with a white pictogram and blue background.


Green rectangular or square shapes with a white pictogram and green background indicate emergency escapes, first aid and no danger; these are exit doors and escape routes.

Red rectangles or squares with white pictograms on a red background identify and locate firefighting equipment.



Dangers Precautions  Mandatory First Aid/Escape Routes  Firefighting Equipment   ISO MANDATORY LABEL SYMBOLS: PPE SYMBOLS

The images may vary, but each sign will communicate the same concept. You may see symbols with a light or darker blue background, but all graphical symbols will be white and the circle will be edged in white. The majority of the symbols are common sense and easily indicate the safety measure necessary.


Custom ANSI/ISO Mandatory symbol

General Mandatory Action



Wear Eye Protection

 Wear Opaque Eye Protection

 Wear Ear Protection


 Wear Eye and Ear Protection

Wear Hard Hat

Wear Hard Hat and Eye Protection


Wear Hard Hat, Eye & Ear Protection



Wear Helmet Whilst Welding



Wear Protective Gloves

Wash Hands

Use Barrier Cream



Wear Foot Protection

Wear Safety Boots

Wear Anti-Static Footwear



Wear Face Shield

Use Breathing Apparatus

Wear Respiratory Protection

Wear Respiratory Equipment 

Use Supplied Air Respirator

Wear A Mask

Wear A Welding Mask



Wear Face Mask


Wear Protective Clothing

Wear Safety Overalls

Wear a Safety Harness


Wear High Visibility Clothing

Wear a Life Jacket

Wear a Hairnet



Read Operator's Manual

Disconnect Main Plug

Use Safety Lock

Lock Out Electrical Power

De-Energize State Lockout






Use Guards 

Lift Point

Connect Earth to Ground

Disconnect Before Maintenance



Turn Off When Not In Use





Radiation Dosimeter Must Be Working At All Times

Use Handrail


That's quite a lot to remember! Luckily, we've collated a handy checklist that'll keep you PPE compliant in 2017.

Download our PPE compliance guide to find out how to store, maintain, replace, and clean your PPE, and more. 


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Why do we ask?
This gives us an idea of which member of our team could best help you.