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.
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
SIGHT, HEAD AND HEARING SAFETY
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
HAND PROTECTION SAFETY
Wear Protective Gloves
Use Barrier Cream
FOOT PROTECTION SAFETY
Wear Foot Protection
Wear Safety Boots
Wear Anti-Static Footwear
RESPIRATOR AND MASK SAFETY
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
PPE CLOTHING SAFETY
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
Connect Earth to Ground
Disconnect Before Maintenance
Turn Off When Not In Use
Radiation Dosimeter Must Be Working At All Times
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.