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Creating a Safe Workplace

The importance of effective safety labeling and signage.

By: Daniel Cobb, Contributor

Worker safety is an ongoing effort, not a one-time deal. Environments change, regulations change, and we must keep up with these changes to protect our workers and ensure that our businesses remain compliant. That’s where labeling comes in.

Labels give us the critical details we need about potential hazards and how to stay safe. They give us information like what’s in the containers, what kind of risks we’re dealing with, and how to handle substances properly. Labels give us clear instructions and warnings to help us quickly identify any dangers lurking around.

With effective labeling compliance, we can make informed decisions, take the right safety precautions, and keep ourselves and our coworkers safe. It’s an ongoing process, but an important one to maintain a safe working environment.

Labeling plays a crucial role in improving safety compliance across manufacturing. Think about the number of regulatory bodies that must be reported to on a regular basis: the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), to name a few. Clear and comprehensive labels can provide essential information regarding hazardous substances, equipment and processes that help maintain compliance and minimize the likelihood of hefty fines.

By including details like proper handling procedures, required personal protective equipment (PPE), storage requirements and emergency contact information, labels serve as valuable reminders and references for workers. They help ensure that employees follow the correct protocols and adhere to safety guidelines, minimizing the risk of accidents, injuries, and regulatory violations. Labeling innovations also aid in standardizing safety practices across an organization, making it easier for supervisors and inspectors to assess compliance levels.

How labeling protects employees and mitigates costly citations

According to a 2022 report published by the National Safety Council (NSC), OSHA cited hazard communications as the second highest violation in workplaces. The Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals requires signage for hazardous materials, and specifies chemicals that must be labeled accurately to ensure safety. However, these labeling violations are common within the workplace.  What can companies do to keep their employees safe and avoid costly fines?

One solution is enhancing GHS labels with the addition of quick response (QR) codes linked to Safety Data Sheets (SDS). Here’s how this effective labeling solution can support workplace safety:

Quick access to detailed information: By incorporating QR codes on GHS labels, workers can conveniently access comprehensive SDS for the specific chemical or substance being

Workplaces have a multitude of safety signage and labeling needs that go beyond labeling requirements for the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of classification and labeling of chemicals. Image courtesy of Brother Mobile Solutions.

ed. The SDS contains detailed information about the properties, hazards, handling procedures, and emergency response protocols associated with the substance. QR codes eliminate the need for manual searching or relying on printed copies, allowing workers to access the most up-to-date information instantly.

Reduced liability risk: Proper labeling significantly reduces liability risks for businesses by providing clear and accurate information about potential hazards associated with products or materials. By clearly identifying and warning about the presence of hazardous substances or conditions, labels help establish a reasonable duty of care. This ensures that employees, as well as customers or end-users, are aware of the risks involved and can take appropriate precautions.

When workers have easy access to SDS through QR codes, they can quickly review critical information about the chemicals they are handling. Such awareness empowers employees to take appropriate precautions, reducing the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and exposures to hazardous substances.

Real-time updates and training: SDS linked to QR codes can be updated in real-time, ensuring that workers have access to the latest safety information and guidelines. This is particularly beneficial when manufacturers or regulatory agencies update hazard classifications, precautionary measures or first aid procedures. Additionally, companies can leverage QR codes and SDS to provide targeted training materials, including videos, quizzes or interactive modules designed to educate workers about safe handling practices.

Workplace efficiency: QR codes can help reduce the risk of errors and ensure accuracy in accessing relevant SDS. This saves time for workers and helps them focus on their tasks without compromising safety.

Emergency response preparedness: In the event of an accident, spill or exposure, quick access to detailed SDS information via QR codes enables rapid decision-making and effective emergency response. This includes identifying appropriate medical treatments, notifying emergency responders of chemical hazards, and mitigating potential risks to affected individuals and the environment.

You can create a safer workforce by using innovative labeling solutions and measures that reduce the likelihood of accidents, injuries and chemical exposures.

The advantages of print on-demand versus pre-printed safety labeling

Workplaces have a multitude of safety signage and labeling needs that are required of them that go beyond just GHS labels. Some notable examples include:

  • Pipe marking with the type of fluid and flow direction
  • Secondary GHS labeling with storage and disposal precautions
  • Arc flash labeling with electrical hazard risks for switch boards, panel boards, control panels, etc.
  • Lockout or tagout with proper machinery shutdown procedures
  • General safety communications for emergency response and information about facilities

With all this safety signage required, the ability to print a wide variety of safety signage and labels on-demand offers numerous benefits like:

Reduced costs. Pre-printed labels have a high cost per label, and you must meet minimum order quantities. It can be expensive to meet high volume needs and may result in costly waste if only a few labels are needed. With on-demand printing, you only print what you need.

No wait time. Delivery times for pre-printed labels can vary, especially with current supply chain challenges – on-demand labels can be created immediately, whenever and wherever needed.

Smarter customization. Pre-printed labels can go out of date quickly as regulations and needs change and it’s impractical to change or adapt them. On-demand labels can be easily customized to a specific environment or process as well as with company logos, barcodes and new information.

Find a solution that fits your needs for safety

When selecting a printing and labeling solution for your workplace it’s important to remember that the best solution will fit your company’s and employees’ needs. Investing in the right signage labeling solution can help you protect workers, stay in compliance with evolving regulations and increase workplace efficiency. WMHS

Daniel Cobb is a senior manager with MRO / Manufacturing at Brother Mobile Solutions. Brother’s printers and labelers are purposefully engineered for real jobs, real demands, and real environments. From mobile solutions and handheld printers to desktop thermal solutions and industrial labelers, learn more at www.brothermobilesolutions.com.

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