Proper safety signage in the workplace can be the difference between an employee being safe while performing a task or getting injured. It’s true that safety training also helps prevent workplace accidents, but strategically placed safety signs are daily, on-the-job reminders that will reinforce proper behavior. Consequently, it’s important employers and safety managers do their part to keep the worksite safe by posting adequate signage. So is your facility up to snuff when it comes to safety signs? In this post we’ll take a look at seven reasons your company might just need a safety sign update.
1. Safety Signs are Worn
Maybe safety signs were put in place back when your facility started operating, or maybe a safety manager posted safety signs a few years ago. Just because you have signs doesn’t mean they’re the correct or most useful signs, though. One very common problem with safety signs is wear and tear. Over time, signs can get torn or scratched. Colors may also fade, especially on signs posted outdoors. Because these things tend to happen over many months and years, it’s easy to not notice the changes. A worn sign, however, might signal neglect to employees, and they may wonder whether the sign is still pertinent to their jobs. Additionally, a faded or worn sign is generally less attention grabbing, and you want your safety signs to stand out and demand attention. A bright red “Danger” sign, for example, would certainly draw someone’s eye better than a faded, pink “Danger” sign, and in a location where not following proper safety procedures could lead to severe injury or even death, it’s critical that “Danger” sign gets noticed.
This type of problem can be avoided in the future by using durable signs appropriate for your facility’s conditions. Signs that will be used outdoors need to be coated to prevent water damage, and signs that will be placed on rough surfaces need strong adhesives. Opting for these types of signs now can save you time and money in the future.
2. Current Signs are Redundant, Cluttered or Confusing
When entering a crowded room, people often feel uncertain of where to look. This same idea applies to signs in the workplace. If you’ve posted many signs in one area—perhaps near a door to your warehouse, where your signs indicate who can enter, what types of personal protective equipment (PPE) need to be worn, where the fire extinguisher is located, etc.—employees may feel confused or overwhelmed. Putting too many signs in one place may cause employees to ignore the whole bunch or to glance at the sign grouping and miss vital pieces of information.
Try walking through your facility and identifying any areas that have this issue. Then see if you might be able to combine some of the signs into one sign or if you might be able to eliminate some of the signs altogether. Those signs were obviously posted in that location for a reason, but over time those reasons might lose relevance. Make sure a posted sign is necessary, and if it’s not, make adjustments.
3. Your Signs Don’t Add Up
Are all the potential hazards in your facility labeled? If not, you probably need to add some more safety signs. Take a walk around and inventory hazards, noting any hazards that lack proper signs alerting employees. If an employee doesn’t see a sign marking a hazard, they may make mistakes. Maybe those mistakes haven’t led to a dangerous incident yet, but if those errors happen every day, the odds of an incident eventually occurring are higher than they need to be. Mark the places where signs should be added—near machines, walkways, pipes and anything else potentially hazardous—and work to fill in those gaps.
On the other hand, you may find you have safety signs in locations that no longer need them. For example, maybe your facility used to have an emergency eyewash station in a certain location, but it has since been moved. On your walk through the facility, you notice there’s still a sign labeling the now non-existent eyewash station. This situation is problematic for multiple reasons. The sign is misleading, and in an emergency employees might end up spending extra time trying to find the eyewash station. A smaller problem—but still important—is that the sign might suggest to employees that managers aren’t keeping the facility up to date. You don’t want to send the message that safety signs only apply some of the time, so removing outdated signs is important.
4. Temporary Signs Have Become Permanent
Let’s face it, safety managers are busy, and sometimes a sign that was intended as a temporary solution turns into a long-term one. People print out warnings or notices (or in some cases draw them by hand) on paper and tape them up on walls or doors. In the short-term, employees might notice a new, taped-up sign, but this method is going to become ineffective pretty quickly. A piece of paper is going to become worn or get damaged much sooner than a proper safety sign or label would, so then it will lose its ability to draw anyone’s attention. Furthermore, a hastily made sign may signal a lack of credibility or legitimacy to employees, and they will be less likely to follow instructions from this type of sign than from a professionally made one that uses standard colors, symbols and text.
To save time and money, safety managers might consider purchasing an industrial label printer so they can make the kinds of labels they want right when they need them.
5. You’ve had a Safety Incident
If an accident has occurred at your facility and someone was injured, you’ve likely had to look into the incident and figure out what went wrong. Any number of things including equipment malfunctions and user error can lead to accidents, but pay close attention to whether an employee made a costly mistake and whether that mistake might have been prevented with a safety sign.
Safety signs can warn employees about how to use a particular machine or what PPE is necessary to perform a particular task. They can also warn employees not to enter certain areas, perhaps an area where a crane is operating or beneath scaffolding where tools or paint might fall. While human error might not have caused a specific incident, adding additional helpful safety signs after an accident can help keep an area safer in the future.
6. You’ve had a Legal Incident
In the case that an accident occurs at your worksite and someone is injured, it’s possible legal issues will arise. For example, if a worker at your company was injured while using a piece of machinery and that machine wasn’t labeled with the proper warnings and precautionary information, you could be held responsible for the accident. Should the worker sue your company, the incident could become very costly.
If your company experienced an event like this, it’s definitely time to add safety signs for the specific machines or areas in question. It’s also a good idea to inspect the rest of your facility for hazards that don’t have the necessary safety signs.
7. Newer Sign Alternatives Would Better Serve Your Employees
The last reason it may be time to update your safety signs is that your signs have been around a while, and newer, easier-to-understand options may be available. OSHA and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have updated guidelines for safety signs recently, and these suggestions for the appearance of signs may direct employees more effectively than your current signs. Newer signs often use clearer text and symbols, which can more easily convey instructions or communicate with non-English speakers. So if you feel like the design of your signs could be better, take a look at what options are available and consider a safety sign update.