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Science Instructional Space Safety Signage

By Ken Roy

Posted on 2023-11-21

Science Instructional Space Safety Signage

What’s Facility Signage About?

Standards and regulations like Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories (29 CFR 1910.1450), Hazard Communications (29 CFR 1910.1200), Exits (29 CFR 1910.37), Fire Extinguishers (29 CFR 1910.157); and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) rules for ANSI Z535.4-2011 (R2017), to name a few, require facility markings or signage to alert employees to dangers in the workplace. This blog post will inform science teachers and supervisors about common safety signage they should have in their instructional spaces (e.g., laboratories, classrooms) and related sites (e.g., preparation rooms, storerooms). Some markings are required by legal safety standards (e.g., OSHA, National Fire Protection Association [NFPA]), and others are strongly recommended by better professional safety practices (e.g., NSTA, National Science Education Leadership Association [NSELA], American Chemical Society [ACS]). The markings can often be found in the appendixes of safety standards.

Safety Through Symbols

With today’s diverse working population and language barriers, symbols and color-coded signage help alert all employees to danger in the workplace. OSHA addresses this problem in its Specifications for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags (29CFR1910.145). OSHA recommends the following codes:

A. DANGER—Red signs with lettering or symbols in black and white indicate immediate danger. If not avoided, will result in serious injury or death.

B. WARNING—Orange signage with lettering or symbols in a contrasting color to represent a hazard level between DANGER and CAUTION. If not avoided, could result in serious injury or death.

C. CAUTION—Yellow sign with black lettering to warn employees against potential hazards. If not avoided, could result in a minor or moderate injury.

D. BIOHAZARD—Signage with fluorescent orange or orange/red signs to designate infectious agents posing risk of death, injury, or illness.

E. SAFETY INSTRUCTION SIGNS—Green signs with white lettering providing general suggestions of safety measures.

F. EXIT SIGNS—Must be lettered in legible red letters, not less than six inches high, on a white field, and the principal stroke of the letters shall be at least three-fourths of an inch in width.

(Learn more at the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.145 website:

Signs/Labels in the Laboratory Instructional Space

Prominent signs and labels should be posted in the science laboratory.

A. Location signs are required for eyewash stations, safety showers, and other safety and first aid equipment. See .151(c). 

B. Warnings at locations or equipment where special or unusual hazards exist; e.g., laser, hazardous chemicals, etc. See .1450, Appendix A.

C. Areas where food and beverage consumption and storage are allowed; e.g., refrigerators for edible food and refrigerators for hazardous chemical storage. See .1450, Appendix A.

D. Telephone numbers of emergency personnel/facilities, supervisors, and lab workers. See .1450, Appendix A.

E. Identity labels showing contents of containers (including waste receptacles) and associated hazards. See .1450(h)(1) and .1200(f)(5).

F. Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) readily accessible in an SDS station. See .1200(g)(10).

G. Exit or means of egress signage must be marked by readily visible signs. See .1450, Appendix A, and Exits .37(q).

H. Eye protection warning; e.g., fume hood, entrance to lab, etc. Note that some states have goggle laws requiring posting of signage such as the goggle statute. See .145(c)(2).

I. Floor Markings—Permanent aisles and passageways must be appropriately marked; e.g., safety zones around eyewash stations. 

Chemical Storage Area Markings

A. Fire Extinguisher. Extinguishers must be readily accessible relative to location and identification. At least one fire extinguisher must be located within 10 feet from the door opening into any room used for storage of flammable and combustible liquids.  At least one portable fire extinguisher must be located not less than 10 feet, nor more than 25 feet from any Class I or Class II liquid storage area located outside of a storage room, but inside a building. See .106(d)(7) and .157(c)(1).

B. Spill Control Station. Spill control stations must be set up where hazardous substances can be released into the workplace. Signage must indicate location of Spill Control Station. See .120, Appendix C.

C. Flammable: Keep Fire Away. Flammable liquid cabinets must be labeled with FLAMMABLE: KEEP FIRE AWAY signage. See .106(d)(3)(ii).

D. Danger: No Smoking. Signage is required noting smoking is not permitted in areas where flammable or combustible liquids are stored. See .106(d)(7).

E. Hazard Communication Labels on Containers. All containers of hazardous chemicals in the workplace must be labeled, tagged, or marked with the chemical name and an appropriate hazard warning. See .1200(f)(5).

F. Aisle Markings. An inside storage room containing flammable and combustible liquids must have one clear aisle at least three feet wide with aisle markings. See .106(d)(4)(iv).

G. No Open Flames, No Water-Reactive Materials. Open flames are not permitted in flammable or combustible liquid storage areas. Water-reactive materials may not be stored in the same room with flammable or combustible liquids. See .106(d)(7).

H. Gas Cylinder Markings. Compressed gas cylinders must be legibly marked with either the chemical or the trade name of the gas. See ANSI Z48.1-1954.

Hazardous Chemical Labels

OSHA’s Hazard Communications Standard establishes uniform requirements for hazardous chemical information and training. This information is provided by manufacturers and shared with employers via SDSs and labels. The labeling requirements by OSHA are not applicable to all substances in the workplace. For example, pesticide labeling is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and foods, drugs, etc. are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Chemical manufacturers and distributors must ensure that hazardous chemicals shipped to employers are labeled with appropriate hazard warnings, the identity of the chemical, and the name and address of the manufacturer. Workplace containers of hazardous chemicals must also have employee protection. The employer and employees are not required to label portable containers in which hazardous chemicals are transferred from their original containers as long as they are intended for immediate use. OSHA requires secondary or portable container labels to have a minimum of two elements:

1.    Product Name/Identifier found on the SDS

2.    General Hazard Information that conveys the physical and health hazards of the hazardous material

The labeling requirements for secondary containers are outlined in Hazard/Communication standard 1910.1200 (f) (6) (ii)2. If the laboratory uses secondary containers filled with chemicals, the secondary containers must comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard for Labels and Pictograms.

OSHA requires a written program in both the Hazard Communications Standard and the Laboratory Standard. The following components must be included in the written plans, in addition to other requirements: description of labeling system, procedures to review information for labeling, and designation of a person responsible for labeling containers of hazardous chemicals.

OSHA Hazard Communication Standard

OSHA Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories Standard or Laboratory Standard

Signing Off

Signage is not only important in maintaining a safer teaching/learning environment for employees and students, it is also the law.  


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 
American National Standards Institute 

General Science Safety Elementary Middle School High School Postsecondary

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