Caution: Inadequate Safety Signage May Increase Workplace Risk

Brian Harrison, Contributor 

Eye-catching signage can be a game-changer for any company with its unparalleled ability to grab people’s attention; convey important information at a glance; and tell a meaningful story. But, some of the same tools and visual communication strategies used to turn heads for business and commerce are also essential for enhancing workplace safety, as well as for better organizing your physical space to ensure the smooth flow of people, activities and equipment.  

Safety signage has a long history in the workplace, playing a vital role in alerting visitors and employees alike about things to stay away from; temporary obstacles or detours; potential safety hazards; and much more. For example, who can forget such timeless classics as: “Men at Work,” “Slippery When Wet” and “Danger: High Voltage”?  

Instantly understandable, highly visible communication about workplace hazards is a no-brainer, but is often overlooked, because some of this signware has been in place so long (say, since the Eisenhower administration) that people barely notice it anymore. 

That’s why it makes sense to periodically take a fresh look at your entire workspace to re-evaluate it for any and all potential safety hazards and to assess whether any new safety signage is needed. After all, you obviously don’t want people unknowingly walking into a potentially dangerous environment or running around trying to locate the nearest fire extinguisher or fire alarm.  

Here are some commonly seen examples of signware and messaging used to communicate important workplace safety information: 

  • No Entry: Authorized Personnel Only 
  • Eye Protection Must Be Worn in This Area 
  • Safety Helmets Must Be Worn at All Times 
  • Caution: Hazardous Materials 
  • Flammable Materials 
  • Fire Exit: Keep Clear 
  • Beware of Guard Dog 
  • First Aid Station 
  • No Smoking

Best practices for safety signage include keeping the messaging as simple and concise as possible and positioning signs so they are easily visible to draw maximum attention to any hazards. In terms of color schemes, red is typically used to symbolize danger, yellow for caution and green for safety 

OSHA offers guidelines around workplace safety signage and related “specifications for accident prevention signs and tags.” However, OSHA standards tend to not always be well-organized, easy to locate or worded in user-friendly language. Fortunately, much of your company’s safety signage program can be built on a foundation of common sense. 

We Interrupt This Report with an Important Digital Signware Bulletin   

Nowadays, there are more options than ever to use high-tech communications to broadcast important safety messaging and related logistical information. For example, some companies now welcome visitors into their facilities with large LED video wall installations that convey key info using text, audio and high-impact imagery. That same technology can easily be used to warn visitors and employees that an elevator or stairwell will be closed for maintenance at a certain time, or that a section of the parking lot is off-limits today. 

You can also imagine how interactive digital communications could be extremely helpful if there is some kind of an emergency, and you need to quickly notify everyone in the building. Absent a reliable communication strategy, this can be extremely difficult. But, with the help of a digital signage solution, you can create a comprehensive emergency communication plan that enables you to instantly update information on various screens throughout your facility. Then, if the need arises, important safety and emergency messages can be simply and efficiently distributed. 

Where Am I? How Do I Get There From Here?  

Basic wayfinding is another extremely helpful aspect of workplace communication that can be enhanced with many different types of signware, especially in sprawling, multi-floor facilities. Attractive, thoughtfully planned wayfinding signage reduces stress for visitors by helping to guide people through your building. This can be especially important in complex environments like corporate offices, hospitals and school campuses. 

Locations such as these, with never-ending hallways, can be a source of considerable anxiety for visitors and can negatively affect their impression of your facility. When it comes to seamlessly supplying people with helpful information about their surroundings, little things like the following can make a big difference.  

  • Digital signage 
  • Identification signage 
  • Informational signage 
  • Regulatory signage (ADA) 
  • Overhead signage 
  • Overhead banners 
  • Name plaques, office identifiers and room numbers

Keeping People Safe, Comfortable, Informed 

Hospitals and medical facilities offer additional examples of how organizations can use digital signage to benefit both staff and visitors:  

  • Showing estimated wait times in waiting rooms 
  • Educating patients and guests about upcoming clinics or events 
  • Displaying maps or directions to help navigate the facility 
  • Adding interactive directories into wayfinding systems 
  • Broadcasting emergency alerts and instructions

Internally, digital signage can be used instead of whiteboards in areas like nursing stations or operating rooms to show schedules, meetings or other notification. In hospitals, you often need to expect the unexpected, so a quick communication channel is incredibly valuable. Similar strategies can be employed in other workplaces, from restaurants and retail, to warehouses and manufacturing enterprises.  

Customized visual communications can also be used to make potentially intimidating environments feel more welcoming. One example is when hospital children’s units display fun informational graphics or colorful wall murals. MRIs and CAT scans can be scary for kids and adults alike, but far less so when the machine is transformed into a soothing aquatic scene using high-quality, large-format printing to create a medical device wrap featuring a colorful undersea image.  

Now that there are so many more ways to use signware, high-tech digital solutions and high-impact graphics to enhance safety, comfort and overall information sharing, more and more companies are finding it helpful to consult with an experienced visual communications partner. A comprehensive strategic approach can help their overall visual communications strategy. WMHS 

Brian Harrison leads marketing efforts for DGI Communications, a print, audio/visual, technology and signage leader. Brian has over two decades helping companies, individuals and communities make connections and tell their stories.