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

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Safe­ty Labels

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.

Digiprove sealCopy­right secured by Digiprove © 2017
Acknowl­edge­ments: Derek Evers­dyke, Clar­i­on Safe­ty Syste more…
Some Rights Reserved
Series Nav­i­ga­tionMachin­ery Safe­ty Labels: 3 Top Tools for Effec­tive Warn­ingsSafe­ty Label For­mat Solu­tions for Solv­ing Com­plex Mes­sag­ing Chal­lenges

Author: Derek Eversdyke

Derek Eversdyke, Director of Facility Safety Products and Intermediary Relationships at Clarion Safety Systems, is experienced in collaborating with safety professionals on label and sign systems that can help to reduce risk and protect people. He has worked with Clarion’s product manufacturing and facility safety customers small and large – as well as industry advocates – for over six years. Clarion designs and produces best practice safety label and sign systems for products and environments. Over the past 25 years, they’ve helped to write the standards that manufacturers in the U.S. and across the globe need to meet. Clarion is an active member of the ANSI and ISO standards committees. The company’s founder, Geoffrey Peckham, is chairman of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors and of ANSI’s U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to the ISO standards committee responsible for safety signs, labels, colors and symbols (ISO/TC 145). With over 60 million safety signs and labels in use in over 180 industries worldwide, their goal of making the world a safer place is taking shape.