The History of Safety Signs


The Early Days of Safety Signage

In 1914, the Worker's Compensation Bureau published a pamphlet titled "Signs and Slogans," which advocated the use of DANGER safety signs in the languages of the workers. The pamphlet stated that safety signs were a necessity in the workplace, yet it did not provide any standard format or guidelines. The colours, text, and design of each sign were left up to the company.

It wasn't until 1941 that safety signage standards were introduced, in part due to the growing industrial revolution and the rise of accident rates. The American Standards Association published ASA Z35.1 Specification for Industrial Accident Prevention Signs. This standard outlined specifications for safety sign design and introduced standard formats for DANGER signs, CAUTION signs, NOTICE signs, and EXIT signs, among others.



Further Standardization

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. courts set a legal framework for liability involving the "duty to warn" and "inadequate warnings." Global trade skyrocketed, and the number of immigrant workers was steadily increasing. These changes affected safety signage, and soon graphics and symbols were being added to safety signs and product labels to break through language and literacy barriers among workers.

In response to these developments, the committee came back together to review its existing standard and revise it where necessary. The committee members discovered myriad inconsistencies among the labels and safety signs in use; colours, text, and graphics often varied from facility to facility. They deemed further standardization would be advisable for the industry.

In the years that followed, they developed new and improved methods for visually communicating safety information, including standardization of colour, symbols, labels, tags, and text. By 2002, it had published one recommended format for facility safety signs, product safety labels, and temporary safety tags.



Colour coding

Often considered to be the most important element when designing a safety sign, colour emits the most immediate signal to your brain. Thus, primary colours as well as colour blends are used to indicate:

  • Danger: Red, A dominant colour, even a small amount tends not to weaken and automatically alerts us to danger psychologically, not least because it’s the colour of blood.
  • Potential hazard, so take care: Yellow A stimulating colour and very visible to humans to trigger our attention
  • Vital information, so pay attention: Blue Associated with intelligence, wisdom and power to reinforce mandatory commands
  • Safe to proceed, all systems go: Green Affiliated with nature, liberty and peace to reassure us all is well.



Shape shifting

In the context of the colours representing various stages of alert or information, certain shapes have emerged which, combined with these colours, offer a more sophisticated range of communication. The basic shapes are as follows:

  • Triangle: Warning
  • Square: Usually provides safety information
  • Circle: Prohibits certain actions if red, gives mandatory information if blue



A Customizable Future for Safety Signs

Advances in digital technology and printing equipment have brought a new level of customization that was never possible in the industry. Today, customizing a safety sign for your specific requirements is quick, easy, and surprisingly affordable.

The availability of custom signage has opened the door for companies to better tailor their messages to their facilities' specific hazards. You can easily add custom text and unique facility details that will make your signs more effective for your employees. Many companies incorporate their logos and brand colours into their safety signs to create a more professional and uniform look throughout a facility.



Dexters’ safety signs are suitable for offices, warehouses, factories, street use, carparks, retail and a variety of other settings. Our range offers visibility to hazards that may be present in your area.

Safety signs provide appropriate warning to workers, visitors and pedestrians that may be in the vicinity of potential risk. With competitive pricing, immaculate presentation and the highest quality products, Dexter’s is the best option for your safety signage needs.

We carry a range of options, including:
Fire Safety Signs
First Aid Signs
Floor Signs
General Signs
Mandatory Signs
Danger Signs
Prohibition Signs
Warning Signs
Carpark Signs


Dexters are the leading suppliers of safety equipment for New Zealand businesses. Our products are trusted nationwide for their quality and reliability. View our range today to find suitable safety signs for your needs.

If you require more information about our safety signs, feel free to get in touch with us on 0800 339 8377.