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 Post subject: Arc Flash Label Colors
PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:07 pm 
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Arc Flash Label Colors
It’s a Gray Area
Electrical Contractor Magazine - July 2012
Jim Phillips, P.E.

It happened once again! The all too familiar question was asked in one of my training programs: “What color should arc flash warning labels be?” This is a very common and sometimes confusing question because there can be more than one answer.

DANGER, WARNING, CAUTION, Red, Orange, Yellow?
Part of the confusion is that neither NFPA 70E or the NEC provide any specific guidance about what color or word to use for an arc flash label. Informational Note No. 2 found in NEC Article 110.6 references ANSI Z535.4-1998 Product Safety Signs and Labels, and NFPA 70E 130.7(E)(1) and Table 130.7(F) reference the entire series for ANSI Z535. This ANSI standard is where you find the definitions of the words Danger, Warning and Caution which are also referred to as signal words. According to the ANSI standard, each word with its appropriate color is defined as follows:

  • CAUTION (Yellow color): Indicates a hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in minor or moderate injury.
  • WARNING (Orange color): Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury.
  • DANGER (Red color): Indicates a hazardous situation that, if not avoided, willresult in death or serious injury.
According to the ANSI Z535 definition, the word Danger with the color red, seems like the most logical choice for all arc flash labels. With the exception of a very minor arc flash, most arc flash events make the risk of serious injury or death quite likely unless proper protection is used or the hazard is avoided. But here is the problem. If every label had a bright red background with the word “Danger” on it, the importance of the message could become diminished.

The Two Color Approach
An approach used by many in the industry is to use both Red and Orange labels. Red with the word “Danger” is reserved for more extreme locations and Orange with “Warning” is used everywhere else. With this method, deciding when to use Red / Danger or Orange / Warning depends on the calculated incident energy.

NFPA 70E Informational Note No. 3 specifically references 40 cal/cm2 as an upper limit where more emphasis may be necessary with respect to de-energizing the equipment. This value is often used to decide which color and word to use. Equipment with a calculated incident energy of 40 cal/cm2 or greater receives a Red / Danger label and everything else would use an Orange / Warning label.

Survey - What does everyone do?
Although the 2 color labeling method is quite common, its use can still generate a lively debate among people in the arc flash community. You can ask several people what colors and words they use and you are likely to receive several different answers since there can be several interpretations. To help identify the more common approaches for label color and signal word selection, I decided to ask this question at: [url='http://www.ArcFlashForum.com']www.ArcFlashForum.com[/url]

The question was posed as:

“ANSI Z535 defines the words Danger, Warning and Caution as well as the respective colors Red, Orange and Yellow which is widely used in the U.S.

NFPA 70E defines the minimum information to be an arc flash label but leaves the color code and signal words up to the user.

Which of the following do you use for your labeling?”

The choices were:
  • ·Red / Danger for 40 cal/cm2 and above with Orange / Warning for locations below 40 cal/cm2
  • ·Red / Danger for all labels
  • ·Orange /Warning for all labels
  • ·Something else such as Yellow / Caution.
[ATTACH=full]283[/ATTACH]
Although far from a scientific survey, the results provide insight into what colors and signal words are being used. 70 percent of all respondents indicated they use the two color approach with the color Orange and signal word “Warning” everywhere except for locations where the calculated incident energy is 40 cal/cm2 or greater. At these locations, the signal word “Danger” with the color Red is used. Of the remaining respondents, 23 percent use Orange and “Warning” for every label, 6 percent used Red and “Danger” for every label and 1 percent did something else.

Survey of Signal Words and Colors used for Arc Flash Warning Labels

Color Code / Signal Word Selection

Percent of Total Votes

  • Red / Danger - 40 cal/cm2 and above with Orange / Warning below 40 cal/cm2: 70%
  • Orange / Warning for all Labels: 23%
  • Red / Danger for all labels: 6%
  • Something else such as Yellow / Caution or other combination: 1%
Although NFPA 70E may provide direction about where labels are required as well as the minimum information that is necessary, the signal words and color selection is not black and white and sometimes becomes a gray area. And gray is not one of the color choices found in ANSI Z535.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:53 am 
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brainfiller wrote:
For additional information about labels where the incident energy exceeds 40 cal/cm2, see the May 2011 Issue of Electrical Contractor Magazine (Editor - direct them to the link or issue or just delete this paragraph)

Looks like something slipped through the Editor...


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 8:43 am 
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Vincent B. wrote:
Looks like something slipped through the Editor...

You have a great second career awaiting as an editor :) . Thanks, it was changed.

_________________
Jim Phillips, P.E.
Brainfiller.com


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:46 am 

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Thanks Jim! This is going to give a bit of ammunition next time I get into a label debate.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:14 am 

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I recall a few of the arc flash programs allowed you to select other colors like blue, green etc. for labels. I don't think this aligns with ANSI Z535 as this article points out. Has anyone ever used these other colors? I'm not sure why they would be an option if we are only to use red, orange or yellow.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 6:38 am 
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I visited a company that used red, yellow and green (like traffic lights); their analysis and labeling was done by a contractor.

I've also spoken to a company that sold printers and labels stating they could be used for arc flash labeling, but didn't offer any media with the yellow, orange or red headers.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 7:57 am 
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A King wrote:
I visited a company that used red, yellow and green (like traffic lights);


So does green mean safe?



Seriously, almost every manufacture of electrical power equipment puts labels on it saying:'DANGER - Hazard of Electric Shock' and recently they include Arc Flash. Then a study is performed and a Caution label installed. Yet, I never see 'work practice' telling which label should be ignored.


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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:29 am 
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There is no defined standard as to when warning or danger arc flash labels should be used. As stated above, 40 cal/cm2 is commonly used. The ANSI Z535 should be followed, which means using a label with either a red header (danger) or an orange header (warning). Using yellow or green headers conveys a different meaning (caution and safety notice) and should not be used.

Secondly, a code compliant standard should be established and consistently followed for determining the type of label, for the label design, and for what information is included on the label. Labels need to communicate their information rapidly, clearly and accurately. Consistency is needed for this to be accomplished.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 6:51 am 
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JBD wrote:
So does green mean safe?


I don't recall the exact cal/cm^2 limits they had established. I believe green was their standard daily wear and the yellow and red labels referenced higher required PPE levels.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:37 am 
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"Seriously, almost every manufacture of electrical power equipment puts labels on it saying:'DANGER - Hazard of Electric Shock' and recently they include Arc Flash. Then a study is performed and a Caution label installed. Yet, I never see 'work practice' telling which label should be ignored."

That is the reason we went from a Red/Orange/Yellow/Green System to using all red several years ago.
All of our labels warn not only of the arc flash hazard, but ALSO of a voltage hazard, as a result the "Danger" signal word, and it's associated color are required.


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PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2012 6:08 am 
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Has anyone looked at the "AHJ's Standard"? Who is the AHJ? OSHA! What does OSHA say about signal words (DANGER ETC) and how to use them? Really interesting and adds another level of confusion as OSHA mandates (29CFR 1920.145) that ANSI Z53.1 - 1967 is incorporated by reference. The 1967 standard is 3 years older than OSHA and doesn't even recognize WARNING as a signal word to be used on signs. I have personally requested an interpretation from OSHA and will relay it when I get it... should be within the next 2-3 years!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:11 am 
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A King wrote:
I don't recall the exact cal/cm^2 limits they had established. I believe green was their standard daily wear and the yellow and red labels referenced higher required PPE levels.


I put green labels on equipment where the HRC was 0


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 26, 2012 8:21 am 
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OSHA answered this question in a letter of interpretation that came out in 2009. You'll find that letter here:

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=27224

However, OSHA also requires compliance with consensus standards, as stated in the above letter. Thus compliance with the latest requirements of ANSI Z535 is required. If nothing else, not complying with consensus standards will result in a citation under the General Duty Clause.

OSHA's has a number of standards that directly address labels and signs. For example 1910.145

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=9794

It's interesting that "warning" labels are not addressed, although "warning" tags are. OSHA not covering the use of a specific signal word does not remove the need to comply with the most current ANSI standard, however.

An overview article covering label and sign standards is at: http://www.duralabel.com/articles/osha-warning-labels.php

viper57 wrote:
Has anyone looked at the "AHJ's Standard"? Who is the AHJ? OSHA! What does OSHA say about signal words (DANGER ETC) and how to use them? Really interesting and adds another level of confusion as OSHA mandates (29CFR 1920.145) that ANSI Z53.1 - 1967 is incorporated by reference. The 1967 standard is 3 years older than OSHA and doesn't even recognize WARNING as a signal word to be used on signs. I have personally requested an interpretation from OSHA and will relay it when I get it... should be within the next 2-3 years!


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2013 8:20 pm 

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We have used this information in the past to address header colors also and we wish the standard was more definitive and extra clear but it is not.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:40 pm 
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A King wrote:
I visited a company that used red, yellow and green (like traffic lights); their analysis and labeling was done by a contractor.

I've also spoken to a company that sold printers and labels stating they could be used for arc flash labeling, but didn't offer any media with the yellow, orange or red headers.

A King, Did you need Arc Flash labels with Yellow, Orange and Red Headers? If so, I may be able to assist you.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:31 pm 

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Our program was rolled out in 2008. In efforts to coordinate and simplify between the PPE required and the labeling, we chose to require HRC2-level PPE for both HRC1 and HRC2, and HRC4-level PPE for both HRC3 and HRC4. For the labeling, we used a blue heading background with NOTICE for HRC0, the yellow heading background with CAUTION for HRC1 and HRC2, the orange heading background with WARNING for HRC3 and HRC4, and the red heading background with DANGER for HRC Dangerous. The intent was for the craftsmen to easily recognize what PPE level was required by the color-coding, and to cover for those color-blind, by the label heading word.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:06 pm 
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As “professionals” with the help of ANSI we have caused more confusion than real answers. ANSI’s definitions for Warning and Danger are exactly the same. Ask three of us “professionals” the same questions and get three different answers. No wonder people are confused. I have seen Warning signs on panels that calculated well over 40 Cal. Then I have seen a Danger sign on a 240 volt 100 amp, single phase panels. I walked into a company this week that had Danger signs on every entrance door does that cover all hazards?

Personally, if my customer is using a two category PPE system (my recommendation) I also recommend Warning for Cat 2 and below and Danger for anything above. This way the “Qualified Person” knows they have to do more than their normal Cat 2 duty uniform.

I really believe ANSI needs to visit their definitions.

If we are talking about possible Death, I teach 59 to 60 volts is the level of voltage required to send current through clean dry skin. Therefore, 60 volts could be lethal. Given that do we need Warning or Danger signs on 120 volt receptacles? Manufacturers put electrocution hazard signs on even small 120 volt appliances don’t they? We could get totally crazy with this.

If we do not come up with some good solid answers and better rules, it will be in the hands of a judge and jury.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:18 am 
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Roy Dutcher wrote:
If we do not come up with some good solid answers and better rules, it will be in the hands of a judge and jury.


In a litigation-happy society, will it not come to that regardless of the signage and rules?


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