The Visual Workplace – 5 Less Obvious Places to Use Signs and Labels

floor sign, informational label
Signs and labels can be used to communicate basic information quickly.

Your workplace already uses many types of signs and labels: exit signs, hazard pictograms and signs telling workers not to smoke, not to enter and not to forget to wear PPE. These signs are an integral part of a visual workplace, which is a work environment where visual cues like signs and labels quickly communicate necessary information to employees so work gets done efficiently and safely.

In many cases, components of a visual workplace like exit signs and warning labels are required by OSHA and other governing bodies. A visual workplace is also beneficial for a number of other reason besides compliance, though. A visual workplace makes training and housekeeping easier, reduces accident and injury costs, increases productivity and improves employee morale.

To take a visual workplace to the next level, your facility can move beyond required signs and labels and tailor visuals to your company’s specific needs. Just think about what kinds of questions an employee might have that aren’t already answered by visual cues. Simple things like Where is the bathroom? and slightly more complex questions like What should I do with my PPE at the end of the day? can be answered, at least in part, with signs and labels.

Let’s take a look at five places facilities could start using labels that might be a little less obvious, but could serve important communication purposes.

workplace labels
Marking storage areas can help keep the workplace clean and organized.

1. Storage Areas

To clear up confusion for the hypothetical employee who’s wondering where PPE should be stored at the end of the day, signs can be posted near storage areas. These signs can be general or specific. For example, a simple “PPE Storage Area” might be sufficient for certain kinds of gear, but a more detailed sign reminding employees to clean, disinfect and properly hang up PPE might be more helpful when dealing with respirators.

Storage areas in your facility are probably used for all sorts of other purposes, too. You may store tools, inventory or office supplies. All of these areas would benefit from labels indicating where each material is supposed to go. This is especially helpful if materials will be stored in boxes, since the contents of those boxes may not be visible.

Tool storage areas can also benefit from many kinds of labels. Text or shadow stickers can make a toolbox or tool organization board easier to navigate so employees don’t have to spend extra time putting away or searching for tools.

2. On the Floor

When people think of safety signs, they tend to picture them on walls and doors. This makes sense because many signs are placed at eye level. Signs can also be placed on the floor, though, where they have many functions.

visual workplace
Floor signs can mark where equipment like ladders, forklifts or trash cans should be placed.

If your facility uses floor-marking tapes to mark things like aisles and traffic lanes, perhaps you’re already familiar with floor signs. If not, consider the safety and organizational purposes these signs could serve. Signs can be placed where a trash or recycling bin belongs so it always returns to the same place, which helps with housekeeping. Signs can also keep equipment from getting in the way. A work cart sign, for example, can quickly explain to employees where to put the work care when they’re done with it.

Keep in mind that while people often look up when they walk, many times they look at the floor, too, so placing important information on the floor makes sense. Additionally, in large spaces like warehouses where walls might not be very close by, floor signs and floor stickers can provide information at the point where it is needed. Think about it: If a forklift crossing sign is posted on the nearest wall of a warehouse, but that wall is thirty feet away, an employee won’t be likely to see that sign at the intersection where forklifts actually operate.

3. On Vehicles

Many vehicles in industrial workplaces like forklifts, motorized hand trucks and hi-lows need warning labels so operators are aware of hazards. In addition to those required labels, consider applying signs and labels that provide useful tips.

For example, forklift operators should check many parts of the truck before starting it up (like the tires, fluids and forks) to make sure they are in working order. A label on the forklift itself could quickly remind employees to do so.

4. On Tools

We discussed how helpful labels can be for storing tools, but labels can also be placed directly on tools, too. Many businesses choose to label tools with barcodes so they can be easily identified. Others might attach labels stating which part of the workplace a tool belongs in or should be returned to. For those feeling creative, color-coding could even be used on tool labels to help tools find their way back to proper storage areas.

5. In Safe Areas

Many workplace signs and labels tell employees what not to do: don’t smoke, don’t enter restricted areas, don’t touch hazardous chemicals. These signs tend to be negative in tone, which isn’t a bad thing since employees need to be alert to anything dangerous. Workplaces can branch out, though, and use positive signs that tell employees where certain behaviors and tasks are allowed.

knife and fork label, kitchen label

Signs stating “no smoking” or “no food and drink” are permitted help employees follow rules. By seeing that specific places exist for these activities, workers will be less likely to eat in an area where they shouldn’t or smoke in an area that could cause a fire hazard. Other signs could designate areas where it’s acceptable to remove protective eyewear or where it’s okay to drive a forklift.

The main thing to remember is that signs can do more than warn people about hazards. They can provide helpful information, offer tips and clearly mark where basic activities like having an afternoon snack are allowed.

Creative Safety Supply

Expand Your Visual Workplace

These five ideas are simple ways to communicate more with visuals in the workplace, but they are by no means exhaustive. Consider how signs and labels could be used to make your facility more efficient and less confusing. A basic sign pointing someone in the direction of the restroom or lunch room may not seem like it needs to be spelled out, but when these directions are posted, employees will know where to go right away without needing to ask questions. Time won’t be wasted, and employees will feel more confident that they know what to do and where to go.

For more information about creating a visual workplace, take a look at the SlideShare below. You can also start printing your own labels using an industrial label printer.

Additional Resources