I sometimes get asked; “Does my sign (or label, or tag) need to be ANSI compliant?”
To answer that you should first understand that ANSI Z535 is a voluntary design standard for safety and accident prevention signs, and in and of itself does not require compliance as would a regulation.
But you also need to know that most of the regulations in the electrical power and other utility service industries we are required to comply with incorporate ANSI Z535 by reference for the design related elements where they specify requirements for safety and accident prevention signs and tags.
This holds the primary key to the answer here.
In a nutshell, if the application towards which the sign is utilized is intended to comply with a regulation that specifies you need to post a sign there, and that regulation incorporates the ANSI Z535 design standard, then yes, you need to conform to the ANSI standard.
The answer can also come from just recognizing the application purpose of the sign.
If the sign is intended to prevent accidents by providing warning and hazard avoidance information to a situation that could be injurious to people, then it only makes sense to design that graphic and message to the ANSI Z535 standard.
Even if a signposting is not specified in any relevant regulation, but still deemed prudent or necessary to warn of a hazard that presents a safety risk; ANSI Z535 provides a tested design standard that is consistent, shows demonstrated effectiveness.
It is uniformly recognized due to its widespread and essentially exclusive use where safety messages are otherwise mandated.
What if the use of a sign is not specified by any regulation or the message is not safety-related?
Examples of this could be a substation address sign, an asset id marker, or a NOTICE sign that indicates information considered important but not safety related.
While the latter would unlikely be required to follow ANSI Z535 designs by any regulation, it’s important to note that the standard does provide design guidance for the NOTICE header.
Along with that, the word message design elements in the standard would also be applicable towards any application in order to create a more effective sign.
So while not all of the design elements required for a safety sign may be necessary, the logic of using selected elements of a design standard that creates an easier to read and faster to comprehend message also improves the effectiveness of our other non-safety sign examples.
I’ll dig into those design elements in greater detail in a future post.