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Understanding Common PPE Symbols And Their Meanings

Posted by Xamax on 05/07/17 10:30

Symbols are quite literally everywhere. It’s universally recognised that man and woman graphical symbol mean male and female toilets, or, similarly, a disabled sign near a parking space means parking for disabled persons. The red octagon of the stop sign can be recognised from afar. But PPE symbols are another matter. Those on site might not always know what they mean. 

ppe guide.jpgimage credit

Some of the common, universally recognised symbols are shown below. Have a look around and you’ll see numerous examples.

bathroom symbol disabled parking symbol stop symbol restaurant symbol slippery surface symbol
windscreen wiper symbol hotel symbol no diving symbol exit symbol  

So if everyday symbols are recognisable, what about symbols designed to keep you safe at work? Here’s a quick list of PPE Symbols: A Definitive Glossary to help you learn what means what - to keep you safe and protected at work and wherever you are.


Why were these PPE symbols developed?

Before we dive in, let’s explore why the symbols were developed in the first place. In order to provide some level of standardisation, specifications were put in place for PPE symbols that are recognised across Europe to keep workers safe.


The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was founded in 1947 and is a standard-defining body composed of representatives from organisations around the world. ISO headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland, and works in 162 countries as of March 2017. It is backed by the United Nations and Economic and Social Council.  


ISO 3864-2 standards are ISO mandatory symbol labels to inform people of the policies that must be followed. You’ll find these symbols on product identifier labels and data sheets listing the Hazards and the PPE you must wear in order to protect yourself.

ppe symbols

Colour symbols and their meanings

In any work environment or public space you’ll see a series of colour symbols to depict dangers, warnings, and let you know where to go: red, yellow, blue, and green labels.


Red labels warn of dangers, and are a round shape edged in red with a black pictogram; these labels indicate the behaviour should stop.


Yellow or Amber labels indicate a warning and are triangular in shape with a yellow background and black edging; these labels indicate where you’ll take precautions.


Blue labels - which will be the focus of this post - indicate mandatory actions where you’ll have to complete a specific behaviour such as wearing personal protective equipment and they’re round with a white pictogram and blue background.


Green rectangular or square shapes with a white pictogram and green background indicate emergency escapes, first aid and no danger; these are exit doors and escape routes.

Red rectangles or squares with white pictograms on a red background identify and locate firefighting equipment.

no pedestrians symbol




ISO Mandatory Symbol

first aid

fire extinguisher

Dangers Precautions  Mandatory First Aid/Escape Routes  Firefighting Equipment



The images may vary, but each sign will communicate the same concept. You may see symbols with a light or darker blue background, but all graphical symbols will be white and the circle will be edged in white. The majority of the symbols are common sense and easily indicate the safety measure necessary.


Custom ANSIISO Mandatory Symbol

Custom ANSI/ISO Mandatory symbol

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General Mandatory Action



eye protection.png

Wear Eye Protection

 Wear Opaque Eye Protection

ear protection.png

 Wear Ear Protection

 eye and ear protection.png

 Wear Eye and Ear Protection

hard hat.png

Wear Hard Hat

hard hat and eye.png

Wear Hard Hat and Eye Protection

hard hat eye and ear protection.png 

Wear Hard Hat, Eye & Ear Protection



wear helmet while welding.png

Wear Helmet Whilst Welding



hand protection.png

Wear Protective Gloves

wash hands.png

Wash Hands

barrier cream.png

Use Barrier Cream



foot protection.png

Wear Foot Protection

safety boots.png

Wear Safety Boots

anti static.png

Wear Anti-Static Footwear



wear face shield.png

Wear Face Shield

use breathing apparatus.png

Use Breathing Apparatus

wear respiratory protection.png

Wear Respiratory Protection


Wear Respiratory Equipment 

supplied air.png

Use Supplied Air Respirator

wear mask.png

Wear A Mask

wear welding mask.png

Wear A Welding Mask



wear face mask.png

Wear Face Mask



protective clothing.png

Wear Protective Clothing


Wear Safety Overalls

safety harness.png

Wear a Safety Harness

hi-vis vest.png high visibility clothing.png


Wear High Visibility Clothing

life jacket.png

Wear a Life Jacket


Wear a Hairnet



operators manual.png

Read Operator's Manual

disconnect main plug.png

Disconnect Main Plug

use safety lock.png

Use Safety Lock

lock out electrical power.png

Lock Out Electrical Power

de-energized state lock.png

De-Energize State Lockout

use guards 1.png

use guards 2.png






Use Guards 

lift point.png

Lift Point

connect earth to ground.png

Connect Earth to Ground

disconnect before maintenance.png

Disconnect Before Maintenance



turn off when not in use.png

Turn Off When Not In Use





Radiation Dosimeter Must Be Work At All Times.png

Radiation Dosimeter Must Be Working At All Times

use handrail.png

Use Handrail


That's quite a lot to remember! Luckily, we've collated a handy checklist that'll keep you PPE compliant in 2017.

Download our PPE compliance guide to find out how to store, maintain, replace, and clean your PPE, and more. 

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Topics: Buying Workwear, PPE