New Warning Sign Rules Approved, Replacing Regulations Issued More Than 40 Years Ago

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By Bruce Rolfsen  

Nov. 5 --New rules for warning signs, such as those placed on machinery or entrances, have been approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency announced in a Federal Register notice published Nov. 4 (78 Fed. Reg. 65,932).

Saying that it didn't receive any adverse comments to the proposed update, the agency announced it was moving ahead with a direct final rule to implement the changes .

For the purposes of judicial review, OSHA said it considers Nov. 6 to be the effective date, although the effective date of the direct final rule was Sept. 11.

The changes update OSHA sign regulations to include signs designed to meet the 2011 American National Standards Institute consensus standards for signs: ANSI Z535.1-2006(R2011), Z535.2-2011 and Z535.5-2011.

The agency first announced its intention to update sign regulations in the 2012 unified regulatory agenda issued in December. OSHA released details of proposed changes in a June 13 Federal Register notice (78 Fed. Reg. 35,559).

Supporters of the change assert that new designs allowed by the 2011 standards better convey workplace dangers by allowing multiple panels, more detailed descriptions of hazards and increased use of illustrations, an option that is especially helpful for workers who don't read English. Employers will be able to use signs with the new designs without being cited by OSHA, and signs designed to meet earlier standards are grandfathered in.

The current rule for signs (29 C.F.R. 1910.6) refers to ANSI standards adopted more than 40 years ago: the 1967 version of ANSI Z53.1, the safety code for marking physical hazards and the identification of certain equipment, and the 1968 version of ANSI Z53.1, which sets forth specifications for accident prevention signs.

Several other OSHA rules that also refer to the outdated ANSI standards will be covered by the new rules, including 29 C.F.R. 1910.97, nonionizing radiation; 29 C.F.R. 1910.145, specifications for accident prevention signs and tags; and 29 C.F.R. 1910.261, pulp, paper and paperboard mills.

The updated regulations will also incorporate references for highway construction signs so that all traffic control signs and devices used to protect construction workers conform to Part VI of the Federal Highway Administration's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 1988 Edition, Revision 3, or Part VI of the manual's Millennium Edition.


To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Stimson at

The Nov. 4 Federal Register notice is available at

The June 13 Federal Register notice with details of the changes is available at

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