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 about buying safe products. Manufacturers are also concerned with meeting the legal requirements for product labelling in their markets.

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 manufacturers’ 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. Clarion’s Safety Label Assessment Service can help get you on track if you are unsure about your product safety label designs.

Principal Product Safety Label Standards

In the U.S., the standard to look at 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.) Canada’s electrical safety standards often include mandatory markings that may not conform to either [1] or [2]. Check your product’s relevant standard(s) and ensure it conforms to the requirements.

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 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 like the top example are no longer accepted. The new formats that are 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 know that the changes made in ISO 3864-2 are significant. The changes open new format possibilities that can help companies 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 provides new options for conveying your safety message. The standard revision is an opportunity to fully refresh your labels, reviewing 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 you can use today, visit Clarion also offers complimentary safety label assessments, using our experience with the latest standards and best practices to assess your labels and ensure that they are up-to-date in meeting today’s requirements.


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

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

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6 thoughts on “Recent Changes to the Product Safety Label Standard ISO 3864-2

  1. Hello in reviewing your article on machinery safety I am wondering if you can help provide some clarity on whether this would also cover best practice for color painting or labelling a machinery area where grease, WD-40 and a couple of other solvents are used to PM a machine periodically.
    Would the need for identification of chemical safety through the use of color coded painting or label on the machine help? The use of a PPE matrix was the initial approach. Given this new information per the ISO and ANSI standard, what would be your advice.

    Thanks for your assistance

    1. Hi Aijay,
      Hazard warnings are always relevant. The starting point is risk assessment. Generally, the biggest concerns with lubricants are inhalation of mists/aerosols, skin contact, and eye contact. Since one of the goals in the design of hazard warnings is to use the minimum number of hazard warnings possible to prevent mental overload, usually only the highest risks are covered with warning labels. Lesser risks are discussed in the user manuals. There are two relevant standards for your consideration: ISO 20607:2019, Safety of machinery – Instruction handbook – General drafting principles, and ANSI Z535.6-2011 (R2017), American National Standard for Product Safety Information in Product Manuals, Instructions, and Other Collateral Materials. I particularly encourage you to use the ANSI standard. There is no other standard that I am aware of that deals with the topic.

      As for colour coding or painting, this is a novel approach to the problem. It could be effective, but since Im not aware of anyone doing it this way, I can’t say how well it might work.

  2. 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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