Quiz: The Language of Safety Signs

Lily Travis
Lily Travis
- 5 min read

Understanding safety signs is vital for us. These signs provide information about potential dangers and give instructions on how to proceed. There are 3 main elements to every sign. These elements are the shape, color and image on it. In order to understand the language of safety signs, you should understand these 3 characteristics.

Safety signs are made using semiotics - the science of symbols, or how colors, shapes and text affect human brains. Each type of sign has a certain color, shape and text to convey a specific meaning and trigger certain reactions.

Categories Of Safety Signs

Safety signs for emergency

There are 4 main types of safety signs. Let’s find out how they’re categorized.

1. Emergency and first-aid signs

These signs give information about emergency exits, first aid supplies or rescue instructions. Fire signs also fall into the category of emergency signs. In case of fire, these signs provide information about fire extinguishers and emergency exits.

2. Mandatory signs 

Тhese types of safety signs direct us to take a certain action that must be taken in order to enter a hazardous area, for example. The second picture indicates that a safety mask must be worn to enter the area. These have been especially useful since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing mandates, other safety guidelines, sneeze guards that are on display fall under this category.

3. Prohibition signs 

Тhese signs caution us against doing something which might be dangerous or forbidden in a given place or circumstance. As shown in the third picture, it is prohibited to walk, enter, eat, smoke, take pictures and so on in certain places.

4. Hazard signs 

Тhese signs warn us of dangers and can save lives. There are various hazard signs. The most common are signs for electrical and radiation hazards, warning about falling objects, toxic chemicals and materials, dangerous road conditions and so on. They also include “beware of dog” signs.

Shapes Of Safety Signs

You’ve probably noticed that safety signs have very specific, often repeating shapes. This makes the category of each sign recognizable without the need to see the pictogram on it. They are as follows:

Triangle – Warning signs

Round red – Prohibition signs

Round blue – Mandatory signs

Square and rectangular green – Emergency signs

Colors Of Safety Signs

Red colored sign with HQ materials

But what about the colors of safety signs? Have you ever wondered why prohibition signs are red? Well, there is a reason for that.

Our eyes are most sensitive to red, so it is the first color we notice. And it is the only color that can be seen through fog and rain. Red is the color of blood and burning objects, so when we see red our brain alerts us about a danger.

The red should take up at least 35% of the sign to be quickly noticeable.

Blue safety signs with colored printings

Signs with mandatory information are in blue color with white texts pr pictograms.

Blue is connected with wisdom, power and intelligence. Mandatory signs are blue because they command authority. The white foreground makes messages clearly visible so instructions are easy to follow.

The blue should take up at least 50% of the sign to be effective.

Yellow colored signs with colored printings

Yellow is the color of warning signs. It’s the second most noticeable color for human eyes.

Displays in yellow draws attention and warns of potential hazards. They are often shaped like a triangle which is associated with an exclamation point. Again, this makes them easier to recognize and triggers our brains to be on alert of potential hazards and safety procedures.

The yellow should take up at least 50% of the sign to stand out.

Green colored sign with aluminum material

Green is the color of emergency signs. It’s associated with peace and nature.

Green is a less interfering color which blends easily with the surroundings. At the same time, it can be easily noticed. It’s used to create calm during often stressful situations. The color of texts and symbols against the green background are white for easy readability.

The green should take up at least 50% of the sign.


Now, let’s take a fun quiz to see how well you know the meaning of each sign.

Before scrolling down to the answers, try guessing what each of these signs mean.  You can write down your answers and then compare the results. Find the answers for every set of signs below.

First, let’s see how many hazard and emergency signs you know.

Health and emergency signs

How do you think you did? Ok, let’s get to the answers.


  1. Warns us that there is an overhead load
  2. Warns that there are industrial vehicles driving around
  3. Warns that there is an electricity danger
  4. Warns of non-ionizing radiation
  5. Indicates an emergency exit direction
  6. Locates an emergency stretcher
  7. Required fire helmet alert
  8. An emergency fire ladder alert

Next, let’s go over mandatory and prohibition signs

Mandatory signs with aluminum printings

The prohibition signs are likely the easiest ones to guess as they are common and can often be seen in public spaces.

Here are the answers...

9. Indicating that a safety helmet should be worn

10. Informs that you need to wear eye protection11. Shows that you should wear face protection

12. Indicates that there is no food allowed

13. Informs that there is no smoking in the area

14. Informs that there are no pictures allowed

So, how many did you get right? If you didn’t get many, don’t worry. You can learn them now.

Hopefully, you are now more aware of safety signs. They’re intended to create safe spaces and make navigating the world easier. In many cases, they can save lives so make sure you heed their warnings.

After reading about safety signs, you may also want to read on and learn all about sneeze guards.

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