Pictograms and Other Symbols in the Workplace.

Pictograms & Other Symbols


The meaning of a sign (other than verbal communication) must not rely on words. However, a sign may be supplemented with words to reinforce the message provided the words do not in fact distract from the message or create a danger.

A sign (other than verbal communication, acoustic signals or hand signals) should use a simple pictogram and/or other symbol (such as directional arrows, exclamation mark, etc) to effectively communicate its' message and so overcome language barriers.

Pictograms and symbols are included in the regulations. Employee training is needed to understand the meaning of these since many are not inherently clear, some are meaningless to anyone who has not had their meaning explained and some can even be interpreted with their opposite meaning.

Pictograms and symbols included in the regulations do not cover all situations for which graphic representation of a hazard or other detail may be needed. Any sign used for a situation not covered in the regulations should include either:

  • the international symbol for general danger (exclamation mark !) if the sign is a warning sign and tests show that the sign is effective; or, in any other case; or
  • a pictogram or symbol which has been tested and show to be effective.

The text of any words used to supplement a sign must convey the same meaning. For example, a round blue sign with a pictogram showing the white outine of a face with a solid white helmet on the head means "Safety Helmet Must Be Worn" and so any text used must maintain the obligatory nature of the message.

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