Read the Signs for Workplace Safety
One of the most effective safety tools is also one of the most affordable. Prominent safety signs that list safety rules and identify workplace hazards go a long way toward preventing injuries.
Safety signs provide an important layer of protection for workers exposed to dangerous situations such as arc flash, hazardous chemicals, falls or collisions. OSHA regulation 1910.145 requires safety signs be present when hazards may lead to accidental injury or property damage.
Some of the more common OSHA sign and label violations include identifying hazardous materials, labeling electrical equipment and circuits, exit signs, lockout tag applications and confined space postings.
With electrocution the second most common cause of workplace death, it's not surprising that OSHA regulators place extra scrutiny on electrical signage.
Enclosures that do not clearly show that they contain electrical devices must be marked with a safety sign. Electrical equipment must be marked with manufacturer information, voltage, current and wattage and must be clearly tagged whenever service work is being performed.
Millions of facilities deal with hazardous materials, so it's not surprising that's a top violation either.
OSHA regulations require employers to label hazardous materials with the chemical identity and provide appropriate hazard warnings.
When chemicals are present, nearby safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and eye wash/shower stations should also be clearly marked.
No matter where your signs are located, it's important that they're durable. Advances in sign and label technology means new materials are better able to withstand harsh environments and/or better able to adhere to tricky surfaces like brick or oily drums.
Conduct a safety sign audit every time the facility layout or equipment changes, or at least once a year. Make sure signs and labels are still legible.
Auditors should also ensure safety signs haven't been covered or obstructed, and that any new hazards are labeled accordingly.
Check fire exits, shipping areas, machines and anywhere chemicals are stored or used. Ask yourself if signage is appropriate for the risk.
Consider your work force, too. If your population has evolved and now includes a large number of non-native English speakers, consider bilingual signage or more graphical representations.
When reasonable, wording should include a positive, rather than a negative, suggestion. In other words: "Keep container tightly closed," is preferable to "Do not leave open."
Be aware that regulations can be very specific regarding color and size. Ask your sign vendor to assist with an audit or provide guidance before you order.
Larry Obermann, owner of FASTSIGNS Green Bay, can be reached at (920) 490-9800 or Larry.Obermann@fastsigns.com.