Signs are an important part of a work safety program. They perform many essential roles, such as warning workers about hazards and designating safety stations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has guidelines for the usage of signs and tags to identify work hazards. The guidelines standardize sign and label colors, letter style and size, signal words, and sign and label placement.
Workplaces with effective and clear signage can minimize hazards and work injuries. Conversely, improper signage can actually lead to serious work injuries, and even fatal work accidents.
Why are Signs Important at Work?
When signage is effective, it goes almost unnoticed. In terms of safety, signs can help newcomers and visitors avoid hazards, and they also serve as powerful reminders about dangers to workers. Some signage is permanent, while other signs are crucial to alerting employees to temporary hazards created by construction or repairs.
An effective sign should include the following:
- Concise and easy to read language with the most urgent information first.
- Readily understood with direct instructions.
- Appropriate to the degree of hazard.
- Positive language instead of negative wording.
- Information that is easily readable from a distance.
- Signs should be visible where hazards exist.
Signage should be consistent across the workplace and bilingual if large numbers of workers speak different languages. When new hazards are introduced to the workplace, signage must be updated to reflect the changes.
What Hazards Require Signage?
Examples of safety hazards necessitating signage include:
- High voltage current areas
- Construction areas
- Areas that require personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Flammable and explosive materials
- Confined spaces
- Slip and fall hazards
- Restricted areas
- Hazardous waste
Signs are also extremely important in helping workers to locate safety and emergency equipment, such as eye wash stations, automated external defibrillators, fire extinguishers, and first aid kits.
Pay Special Attention to Color Codes
Proper safety signage is color coded according to OSHA guidelines:
Red: This sign indicates that a hazard will cause death or serious injury.
Orange: This sign denotes a warning that the hazard has a potential to cause death or serious injury.
Yellow: A yellow caution sign indicates that a hazard may cause moderate or minor injury.
Blue: A blue sign means that a hazard may cause property damage. Notice signs are generally related to procedures, instructions, or maintenance of machines and equipment.
Symbols and Pictograms on Signs
The right symbol can instantly send a clear message to the reader, regardless of language ability. A symbol can designate a specific hazard or support the message of the sign.
The following shapes are commonly used to further clarify the meaning of the symbol:
- Circle with Slash: Prohibited
- Circle: Mandatory
- Triangle: Hazard
- Square: Information
How Should Signs be Placed at Work?
Placement of a sign can be crucial in preventing work accidents and injuries. The OSHA offers guidelines for the correct way to label safety hazards. A sign indicating a danger belongs where a hazard poses an immediate threat, requiring special precautions. A sign indicating caution should be used where potential hazards exist. Signs providing safety instruction, such as proper lifting techniques, should be posted wherever safety suggestions and instructions can remind workers to stay safe.
It is also important that sign placement does not become a hazard itself. A sign should not block equipment, sightlines, or present a danger to workers.
Training Workers About Important Signage
The best signs can be rendered ineffective if workers have not been trained to recognize the meaning associated with each type of sign. There are distinct differences between each sign as well as many different types of symbols commonly used in work areas.
During training sessions, workers should be informed to never remove signs unless qualified personnel have directed them to do so. Changing signs is extremely dangerous and can cause accidents and injuries.
Refresher training can help increase commitment to safety practices and must be done anytime new hazards are introduced to the workplace.
How can Improper Signage Cause Work Injuries?
Improper signage can be the result of a management oversight. For example, signage removed during renovations that was never returned to its original place is a profound mistake. Lack of proper signage could leave workers exposed to dangerous hazards and cause serious injuries or even fatalities.
Common injuries from lack of signage include the following:
- Sprains and strains from incorrect lifting, carrying, and pulling.
- Cuts and lacerations from machine accidents.
- Head and neck injuries from being struck by objects from above.
- Broken bones, head, or back injuries from slip and fall accidents.
- Burns or death from high voltage accidents.
- Chemical exposure.
Almost all work accidents are preventable, and proper signage is an essential tool in a workplace safety program. An employer has a responsibility to maintain a safe work environment and comply with OSHA guidelines for signage. If a worker is injured on the job, they have rights to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. An experienced lawyer can help a worker receive such benefits.
Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. Help Employees Obtain Compensation After Work Accidents
Our Pittsburgh Workers’ Compensation lawyers at AlpernSchubert P.C. help clients with claims and benefits after work accidents. We understand that improper signage can cause serious work injuries, and we will fight to get you compensation. Call us at 412-765-1888 or contact us online for a free consultation today. Located in Pittsburgh, we serve clients throughout western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny County, Lawrence County, and Washington County.