Machinery Safety 101

Recent Changes to the Product Safety Label Standard ISO 3864 – 2

The Importance of Best Practice Product Safety Label Standards

Product safety labels serve an import­ant role. They pro­tect both users and man­u­fac­tur­ers. Man­u­fac­tur­ers are con­cerned with build­ing products and pro­tect­ing them­selves from liab­il­ity law­suits. Users are con­cerned abut buy­ing safe products. Man­u­fac­tur­ers are also con­cerned with meet­ing the leg­al require­ments for product labelling in the mar­kets they serve.

As a product man­u­fac­turer, your leg­al oblig­a­tion is to meet or exceed the cur­rent ver­sions of stand­ards related to your products. Reg­u­lat­ory com­pli­ance often hinges on meet­ing cur­rent stand­ards. Many jur­is­dic­tions use com­pli­ance with the latest stand­ards to gauge manufacturer’s efforts to meet best prac­tices and leg­al requirements.

While keep­ing your product safety label designs up-to-date is not always a simple task, using the prin­cip­al product safety label stand­ards for the design and lay­out of your labels is key to ful­filling this require­ment. If you are unsure about your product safety label designs, Clari­on’s Safety Label Assess­ment Ser­vice can help get you on track.

Principal Product Safety Label Standards

In the U.S., the stand­ard to look to is the ANSI Z535.4 Stand­ard for Product Safety Signs and Labels [1]. Inter­na­tion­ally, the primary stand­ard for ref­er­ence is ISO 3864 – 2 Graph­ic­al sym­bols – Safety col­ours and safety signs – Part 2: Design prin­ciples for product safety labels [2]. As Canada does not have a product safety label stand­ard, fol­low­ing the design prin­ciples in ANSI Z535.4 or ISO 3864 – 2 will give you a start­ing point for both con­tent and format choices for your product safety labels (bear­ing in mind any lan­guage require­ments for your jurisdiction.)

Recent ANSI and ISO Standards Changes

The ANSI Z535.4 and ISO 3864 – 2 product safety label stand­ards are revised accord­ing to ANSI and ISO pro­ced­ures, typ­ic­ally every five years. ANSI Z535.4 is in the pro­cess of being bal­loted for reaf­firm­a­tion without changes. If that occurs, the new ver­sion will be identic­al to the 2011 standard.

ISO 3864 – 2 was updated in Decem­ber 2016. The revi­sion included sig­ni­fic­ant modi­fic­a­tions to its con­tent, includ­ing sev­er­al changes to the label formats it allows. It is import­ant to be aware of these changes and to under­stand why one label format may be more appro­pri­ate for your product than another.

Focusing in on ISO 3864 – 2:2016

In the latest ver­sion of the ISO 3864 – 2 product safety label stand­ard, there are two major changes to ISO label formats:

  • The product safety label format that used a single safety sym­bol without an ISO-colored sur­round shape was removed from the stand­ard. From the ISO 3864 – 2 standard’s per­spect­ive, and as defined in the standard’s first edi­tion, product safety labels must use at least one ISO-format­ted safety sym­bol (mean­ing, the sym­bol is placed in an ISO 3864-colored sur­round shape) in addi­tion to the “gen­er­al warn­ing sign” that serves as the safety alert sym­bol on the label’s sever­ity level pan­el. Non-ISO-format­ted sym­bols can still be used on product safety labels, but only in addi­tion to one or more ISO-format­ted sym­bols. ISO 3864 – 2 defines these safety sym­bols as “sup­ple­ment­ary.”
Example of a complete wordless ISO product safety label.
Safety label format­ting options that are no longer accep­ted (top label) and accep­ted (middle and bot­tom label) by ISO 3864 – 2:2016. (Label designs ©Clari­on Safety Sys­tems. All rights reserved.)
  • A new “word­less” format that con­veys risk sever­ity was added to the stand­ard. This new product safety label format uses what ISO 3864 – 2 defines as a “haz­ard sever­ity pan­el” without a sig­nal word. The pan­el appear­ing at the top of the label com­mu­nic­ates the level of risk through col­or-cod­ing and the use of the ISO-format­ted gen­er­al warn­ing sym­bol. This format option, already in use by a wide vari­ety of product man­u­fac­tur­ers, elim­in­ates words – mak­ing trans­la­tions unnecessary.
Example of a wordless ISO product safety label.
Example of the new “word­less” safety label format option allowed by ISO 3864 – 2:2016. (Label designs ©Clari­on Safety Sys­tems. All rights reserved.)

Next Steps for Your Labels

It is import­ant to be aware that the changes made in ISO 3864 – 2 are sig­ni­fic­ant. The changes open up new format pos­sib­il­it­ies that can help com­pan­ies to bet­ter warn their users about haz­ards asso­ci­ated with their products. These changes make it a good time to ree­valu­ate your labels.

Check to see if

  1. they con­tin­ue to meet your market’s require­ments, and
  2. wheth­er the “word­less” format makes sense for your labelling.

The ISO product safety label stand­ard gives you new options for con­vey­ing your safety mes­sage. The standard’s revi­sion is an oppor­tun­ity to fully refresh your labels, review­ing both their con­tent and format in line with your product’s risk assess­ment and mar­ket requirements.

For more inform­a­tion on effect­ive product safety labelling and resources that you can put to use today, vis­it Clari­on also offers com­pli­ment­ary safety label assess­ments, where we use our exper­i­ence with the latest stand­ards and best prac­tices to assess your labels and ensure that they’re up-to-date in meet­ing today’s requirements.


[1]            Stand­ard for Product Safety Signs and Labels. ANSI Stand­ard Z535.4. 2011 (R2017).

[2]            Graph­ic­al sym­bols – Safety col­ours and safety signs – Part 2: Design prin­ciples for product safety labels. ISO Stand­ard 3864 – 2. 2016.

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Acknow­ledge­ments: Derek Evers­dyke, Clari­on Safety Syste more…
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4 thoughts on “Recent Changes to the Product Safety Label Standard ISO 3864 – 2

  1. Good day,
    I have many years fol­low­ing your webpage, is excellent.
    I’m check­ing the art­icle “Recent Changes to the Product Safety Label Stand­ard ISO 3864? – ?2“and I have a ques­tion: Accord­ing to ISO 7010, the only graph­ic to describe pinch point is “coun­ter­rotat­ing rollers”, that image of a hand get­ting trapped do not belong to ISO norm­at­ive. Is that cor­rect or am I miss­ing something?
    Thanks in advance and best regards,

    1. Hi George,
      In the begin­ning, ISO did not have a com­pre­hen­sion require­ment for graph­ics used on pic­to­graph­ic labels as described in ISO 3864. At the same time, ANSI had a com­pre­hen­sion require­ment in ANSI Z535.4, and the gap between these stand­ards cre­ated a prob­lem with har­mon­iz­ing the two stand­ards. Since then, ISO has adop­ted a sim­il­ar pro­cess to the ANSI com­pre­hen­sion test and has star­ted to approve pic­to­grams for use, although there are a great many that have not been tested. You can search the approved pic­to­grams by vis­it­ing and click­ing the “Graph­ic­al Sym­bols” radio but­ton and then search­ing for “crush”. There are four crush-related haz­ard warn­ing labels: W019, W024, W030, W031. If none of these are suit­able for the haz­ard you are try­ing to describe, you can try a num­ber of oth­er search terms to see if you do any bet­ter. If this does not yield the kind of pic­to­gram you are seek­ing, I would sug­gest reach­ing out to the people at Clari­on Safety Sys­tems, They can help you to design a suit­able label with a tested pic­to­gram, and their pri­cing and cap­ab­il­ity are second to none. Full dis­clos­ure: I do some con­sult­ing work with Clari­on, but I do not receive any kind of com­pens­a­tion for recom­mend­a­tions like this one. 

      I hope this helps. If not, feel free to get in touch with me again and I will do what I can to help. 🙂

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