What is a pictogram?

Pictograms are used in many different situations, including workplace safety. They are generally described as a simple visual representations of data; some people also call them icons or pictorial unit charts. In many cases safety pictograms are black and white, though they can be colored as well. These are very popular because they can convey information very quickly and easily, which is often important when it comes to improving workplace safety.

There are many situations where pictograms are standardized and the same ones are used across all companies. In other situations a company can come up with their own pictograms that are only used internally. Regardless, these images are a very effective option when used properly.

Examples of Pictograms

Some of the most recognizable pictograms are the hazard symbols used in the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). This is a set of standards used to help improve safety when using hazardous chemicals. The following are brief descriptions of some of these pictograms:

  • Flame – The flame pictogram is a black line with a black and white representation of fire.
  • Explanation Point – The explanation point is just a bold symbol. It is used to indicate that a chemical can be acutely toxic.
  • Corrosive Chemicals – If a chemical can be corrosive it will have the GHS pictogram of two test tubes pouring out on two different items. One is a black line used to represent physical objects, and the other is a human hand, used to indicate that the chemical will be dangerous if it comes into contact with skin.
  • Oxidizers – The pictogram used to label substances that oxidize is a flame on top of a black circle.

There are many other pictograms used in GHS, and even more used in other workplace safety programs. Even in situations that have nothing to do with work most people will see pictograms and understand the information that they convey. The most famous pictogram is the skull and crossbones, which is used on many products to indicate that they are poisonous, toxic, or fatal. Using pictograms is a great way to quickly and easily communicate important information.


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