OSHA’s Incorporation of the ANSI Z535 Standards: What’s It Mean for Manufacturers?

Why is OSHA’s change to incorporate the ANSI Z535-2011 standards in their regulations important to product manufacturers using ANSI Z535.4 warnings on their products?

NEMA, the trade association for the electrical manufacturing industry, asked this question of our CEO, Geoffrey Peckham, in the latest issue of its ei Magazine.

With Clarion and Geoffrey’s work in the standards arena – including his role as chair of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors – this topic, part of the magazine’s theme this month of ‘standards collaboration’, is just the right fit for us!

Now, to answer the question: there are two main reasons why this development in OSHA’s regulations is important to product design engineers.

First, the OSHA change represents the U.S. government’s validation of the ANSI Z535 design principles as the state of the art for warnings. This gives companies using ANSI Z535.4 labels an even better defense position should an accident occur and warnings are at issue.

Second, as employers install ANSI Z535-style signs and tags in their facilities and public areas, the U.S. will increasingly have a single, national uniform system of hazard recognition. The outcome of this consistency should be more effective communication.


Read the “Ask the Expert” Q and A in the October 2014 issue of NEMA’s ei Magazine to learn more.

Posted in ANSI, Clarion Industry Partners, Geoffrey Peckham, OSHA, Safety Labels, Safety Signs | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Technical Lecture on Product Safety Labeling

Attention East Coasters! For product design engineers and professionals interested in learning more about best practices and latest advancements in safety labeling, here’s some exciting news you won’t want to miss –

On October 9, our CEO Geoffrey Peckham will be presenting a technical lecture on product safety labeling through the Long Island Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Product Safety Engineering Society.

The lecture, “The New Era of Product Safety Labeling,” will be held at 6:00 p.m. on October 9, 2014 at Underwriters Laboratories in Melville, Long Island.

Topics discussed will include:

  • The ANSI Z535 Standards for Product Safety Signs and Labels
  • International Standards
  • U.S./International Standards Harmonization
  • Durability Considerations
  • To learn more about the lecture, including registration information, read our news release or visit the IEEE website.

Posted in ANSI, Clarion Safety Systems News, Geoffrey Peckham, ISO, Industry News, Safety Labels, Standards Expertise | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Product Safety Labels: Understanding Risk Severity Levels

If you’re making a product that has one or more risks associated with it at any point in its lifecycle, you need to either eliminate those risks, guard them or communicate them so people can avoid them. Are you effectively communicating degrees of risk on your product safety labels? This can be a complex task. But Clarion – and the latest standards – are here to help!

When it comes to hazard alerting labels (labels that communicate potential personal injury hazards and how to avoid them) the color-coded signal words “DANGER,” “WARNING” and “CAUTION” are used identically by the ANSI Z535.4 and ISO 3864-2 product safety label standards to indicate varying degrees or levels of risk severity.

In order to choose the right signal word, your first step – your foundation – is to perform a risk assessment. At its most basic level, risk assessment involves considering the probability and severity of outcomes that can result from a hazardous situation, and then considering various strategies to either eliminate or reduce the risk.


Once the risk presented by your product’s potentially hazardous situation has been determined and you have chosen to use a safety label as a means to lessen the risk, then the task becomes one of choosing the right signal word to convey the severity of risk involved. Annex E in the ANSI Z535.4 Standard for Product Safety Signs and Labels lays out the decision tree (shown here) for choosing the right signal word based on your risk assessment’s decisions concerning a particular hazard’s likelihood and degree of potential injury.

Keep in mind: content levels (the amount of information conveyed on the label, including the decision to use signal words) vary depending on many factors. There’s no single right way to do things. Factors to consider include the characteristics of your intended audience and the markets where your products are sold, as well as the specific details related to the complexity of your industry, the complexity of your product and the hazards associated with its entire lifecycle. Combine all of these factors and you have the ingredients needed to design effective product safety labels. The use of signal words to communicate risk is one safety label component that can be used to accomplish the job of better protecting people from harm.

Interested in learning more about risk severity levels and safety communications? Read the “On Your Mark” article featured in the latest issue of In Compliance Magazine, which provides an in-depth discussion from Clarion CEO, Geoffrey Peckham, on risk severity levels and effective product safety labels.

“On Your Mark” is a regular column that explores labeling and graphical symbols, and how they’re used to convey safety messages. Stay tuned here on the Clarion Safety Systems’ blog for the next article in this series – and for more insight on best practice safety signs, labels and markings.

Posted in ANSI, Clarion Safety Systems News, Geoffrey Peckham, Industry News, Safety Labels, Standards Expertise | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Product Liability Conference at the University of Wisconsin

Are you looking for up-to-date information that will help to improve product safety techniques and minimize your company’s product liability exposure?

If so, the 26th Annual Product Liability Conference is an exciting course being held this September in Madison, WI that you won’t want to miss!

Offered by the University of Wisconsin-Madison – a leader in product safety and liability prevention programming – the conference is aimed towards engineers, product safety personnel, paralegals, attorneys and others with product safety-related responsibilities.

Instructors are practicing professionals who will provide insight to enhance your product safety decision-making. Clarion CEO Geoffrey Peckham will be one of the experts featured in the program. In the September 24 session, he’ll share safety communication experience and standards expertise to present on product safety labeling and effective warnings. Topics will include:

  • Using risk assessment and hazard identification to develop warnings content during product design
  • Use of ANSI Z535 and ISO standards for domestic and export markets
  • Symbols, translations, and new formatting ideas to meet various market requirements
  • Keeping your warnings current: case law, standards, and accident histories

Visit the University of Wisconsin’s website for the full course outline, information on earning continuing education credits and enrollment.

Posted in ANSI, Clarion Safety Systems News, Geoffrey Peckham, ISO, Safety Labels, Standards Expertise | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Remembering 9/11 – And Making Buildings Safer

From time to time I like By UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11.jpeg: Flickr user TheMachineStops derivative work: upstateNYer (UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11.jpeg) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commonsto share my viewpoint on what’s happening in the world of best safety practices created by industries and standards committees. But today I’d like to reflect back on something that happened ten years ago – it’s a story that not many people know and it honors those who died on 9/11.

After 9/11, politics were set aside in NYC when the City created a special commission to explore ideas on how to make tall buildings safer. Changes to the City’s building code and fire safety provisions were in the works, and one of the main areas of concern was how to evacuate buildings quicker and safer. As 9/11 proved, every second counts in emergency situations.

I became aware of the commission’s work when its recommendations were published. The first provision called for photoluminescent egress markings to be placed in the stairwells of all commercial class “E” buildings over 75’ tall. The City’s Buildings Department was (and is) in charge of writing and enforcing the building code. They accepted the task to revamp the code to include these new stairway marking systems but they needed some guidance. A very particular kind of expertise was needed, one that had knowledge of the cutting edge of a certain kind of technology. As it happened, they were in luck. I had what they needed and I saw an opportunity to serve the City in their effort to better protect people from harm. I also knew people from my standards work that had aspects of the knowledge the City needed to write the new code specifications in a way that would achieve the City’s goals. I remember that my overriding thought was that my background – my experience – could make a significant difference.

A Bit of History on “Safety Way Guidance Systems”
In 1996, an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) committee began work on a standard for safety way guidance systems for buildings, work that would culminate in the publication of a new ISO standard in 2002. This ISO committee, ISO/TC 145, was (and is) in charge of standards for all sorts of topics related to safety signs, symbols, colors and markings – and how best to design them. This particular field of emergency path marking systems was outside of my expertise at the time, since my focus up to that point had been primarily product safety labels. So, as Chairman of the U.S. delegation to this ISO committee, I wasn’t aware that I had just stepped into a battle between the electrical and photoluminescent (glow-in-the-dark) industries.

Both of these industries had products that were meant to guide people out of buildings but they operated in fundamentally different ways. Each had their strengths and weaknesses. The electrical industry could light the stairways with emergency lighting and they produced LED strip lights that could be placed on the leading edge of steps and on handrails. In contrast, photoluminescent products were applied to the surfaces of things like steps and handrails and, once charged, they produced light that told you where to put your hand, where to put your feet. Both industries fought for dominance in the new ISO standard and in the end, the standard wrote specifications for both types of systems and let readers choose which products would work best for their situation.

Photoluminescence Takes the Lead Over Electric
But on August 14, 2003 something BLACKOUT - Can it happen again?happened that dramatically tipped the NYC 9/11 Commission’s opinion in favor of photoluminescent safety way guidance systems, eliminating electrical systems from consideration. The Blackout!

A combination of old power lines, hot summer temperatures, trees, obsolete equipment and human error had created one of the largest power outages in history. 50 million people in the U.S. and Canada were left without power for hours. In NYC, many buildings’ electrical backup power systems failed to work and people lit their way down dark stairwells with their cell phones. The full scope of the failure of backup electrical systems has never been documented, to my knowledge. But the number was huge and unexpected. The end result was that when the Commission wanted a “fail safe” solution for guiding people out of buildings, they turned to photoluminescence. As one code writer told me, “nothing with wires.”

The Beginnings of the NYC Expert Taskforce
In 2004, the work from the 9/11 Commission was completed resulting in Local Law 26 – which had as its first provision for change, the installation of photoluminescent egress path marking systems in all the City’s commercial class “E” buildings over 75’ tall. I offered my services to form an expert taskforce to provide them with a “best practice” recommendation for what these guidance systems should look like and they accepted my offer. The task force I set up included experts with many different viewpoints along with my own, with expertise in photoluminescent safety technology, stairwell building codes, fire safety and human behavior in times of emergency. The most respected standards bodies in the world on this subject were represented, including ISO, ANSI, ASTM, UL, NFPA, and NIST.

Installation of a test system in 2004
for demonstration purposes

I led the taskforce, serving as its secretary, chairman, head writer and illustrator. The input from every member around the table at our three day conference in Brooklyn in August 2004, and during the next three months, was enormous. I think everyone realized the lasting impact our recommendation document would have in the field of building safety – we poured our hearts and souls into making it sound, practical and implementable….with the main goal of making its systems effective. The end result was clear and concise. Since the systems were visual in nature, I had a team of helpers that set up prototypes of what they looked like in real NYC skyscrapers. I remember long nights – after hours when stairwells would not be used – drilling, screwing and adhering photoluminescent markings to stairs, walls, doors, handrails, landings and obstacles. It was hot, sweaty work but worth it. No one had really ever done this before. We were breaking relatively new ground and it was exciting to be a part of.

Lighting the Way for 2,800 Skyscrapers…
With the cooperation of the buildings’ safety and operational staffs, we shut the power off in stairwells and led the building code officials and Commission members down them. The markings proved themselves effective, demonstrating how intuitive they made the process of “seeing” the steps, obstacles and handrails. If you have never experienced photoluminescent way guidance systems at work, it’s hard to convey how different and confidence-inspiring they are. You know where and how to move in a way that is completely different, and better, than illumination provided by a dim light source as you might find with an electrical backup system. It was truly amazing; the safety-grade photoluminescent materials did their job.

A NYC photoluminescent stairwell marking system for a new building (across every step, handrail markings are mandatory, and a directional sign is needed at every floor)

A similar stairwell marking system, but for an existing building (across the top step with L markers for all other steps, handrail markings are optional, and directional signs are only used if the egress direction is up the stairs)

I should also note that until that point in time, these photoluminescent systems had rarely been used in buildings, though for years they were mandated for use on board ships, and they were increasingly being used on commercial airplanes to mark aisle paths. NYC would be the proving ground for a much larger application though: 2,800 skyscrapers.

In the photo, below, of the NYC expert taskforce, I’m pictured in the back row in the center of the image (the really tall guy), with Jake Pauls, a specialist in stairwell design to my right and Guylene Proulx, an expert in human behavior during crisis situations, in the first row in front of Jake. The three of us were selected from this group to be part of the code-writing taskforce that reviewed the final NYC code change. I’m pleased to say that this expert group pictured below, and the three of us who went on to review the code, gave credibility to the stairwell marking systems that were finally specified by the NYC Buildings Department in their RS 6-1 code.

The City gave the class “E” building owners and managers one year to install the new stairwell path marking systems, and by July 2005, it was done. Nine years later, those who choose the right materials and right installation companies still have systems that work. Every time I go into NYC, which is around once a month, I poke my head into the stairwells of any of the tall buildings I’m in and check things out. By and large, the systems are doing great, meaning they’re still in place, adhering to their intended surfaces, and not painted over. Since then, additional classes of buildings have been included in the scope for the use of photoluminescent stairwell marking systems.

…And Beyond
I should also point out that the same egress safety path marking technology is now included in the U.S. government’s federal GSA building code and in NFPA 101 Life Safety Code (the document that serves as the basis for most state building codes). While it’s still voluntary for building owners in most jurisdictions, the new evacuation path marking systems represent the new norm – the new bar – for best practices in egress safety.

I’m proud to say that this is just one of the stories to tell from the nearly three decades of standards work that I’ve been privileged to be a part of. At Clarion, we’ve continued to take the lead, devote the time and make successful outcomes happen for standards-based safety sign and label initiatives. Why do we do this? The answer’s simple. Our passion is keeping people safe from harm. Whether it’s in the form of a new building code provision, a product safety label or a workplace safety sign; our staff is committed to helping find solutions that meet our clients’ need to reduce risk and protect people.

I look forward to continuing to share more stories about our work in the standards arena here on the Clarion blog.

Geoffrey Peckham
CEO, Clarion Safety Systems

Posted in ANSI, Clarion Industry Partners, Clarion Safety Systems News, EXIT Signs, Geoffrey Peckham, ISO, Photoluminescent, Safety Labels, Safety Signs | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off