Managing health and safety in the workplace means not only minimizing risk but also knowing how to communicate unavoidable dangers to employees and promoting safety procedures with clear information.
Going ahead, in this article, we are going to review the important types of safety signage and best practices for using them to prevent workplace injuries.
Understanding Essential Signage Types
Depending on the workplace, various levels of safety signage are needed for effective messaging. These include:
- Informational and directional signage: All workplaces must provide at least some basic informational signs that label areas like restrooms. Larger facilities may wish to provide building maps for employees or visitors.
- Instructional signage: In workplaces where complex processes are common or where sanitation procedures must be repeated frequently, signage that reminds workers of safe procedures or hygiene practices can be useful.
- Safety signage: Workplaces, where potentially hazardous materials, equipment, or processes are frequently used, must provide standardized safety information.
In the U.S., these workplace safety signs are regulated in appearance by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American National Standards Institute. Instructional and informational signs generally are not.
Ensuring Safety Signage Follows Standards
For workplace safety managers, ensuring that information is provided in a way that is both clear to employees and compliant with OSHA and ANSI standards is a key part of the job.
When you are selecting and positioning safety signage for your workplace, consider these three key questions to make sure you are keeping the job site safe.
1. Is the safety sign coloring correct?
OSHA requirements have assigned certain colors to certain types of hazards to encourage standardization across industries.
Color codes provide quick visual cues that tell workers what kind of personal protective equipment they will need and whether they can enter the area. Official safety signs should always follow OSHA color coding requirements.
2. Is the safety sign clearly visible to employees?
Safety signs should be posted close to the hazards they are meant to describe to ensure their relevancy.
However, they should also be positioned so that a typical worker will be able to read the entire sign clearly and without eye strain. Avoid placing signs over high doorways or in dark or inaccessible areas.
3. Is the sign comprehensible to all workers?
Since not all employees possess the same level of literacy, the language used on safety signage should be simple, clear, and precise. If some employees have limited vocabulary in English, provide identical signs with verbiage translated to their primary language.
Encouraging Workers To Stay Safe
Especially in workplaces with frequent hazards, workers may habituate to safety signage and ignore it when compliance is inconvenient or unpleasant.
Managers should promote internal motivation among employees to follow safety procedures so that they do not need to engage in excessive behavioral supervision, which can detract from time available for other managerial tasks. Per regulations, safety signage should also be removed when a hazard is no longer present.
Managers can create motivation to engage in safe behaviors by conveying the benefits of safety for employees, involving employees in choosing the PPE that fits them best, and creating a culture where employees are encouraged to think about safety practices often, e.g. at routine all-hands safety meetings.
Additional safety signage posted in break rooms and near lockers can also remind employees to take safety seriously. These signs do not have to meet standards, so managers should think about the best way to communicate with their workforces.
Colorful, humorous signs like these Simpsons posters will receive more attention and better reception than a letter-size piece of paper with a paragraph of detailed instructions.
Staying safe in the workplace is important, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Clear standards, regular reminders, and safety-oriented workplace culture all contribute to a healthy workforce.
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