Your business can instantly increase employee safety and reduce risk by adding safety signs in the workplace. It’s important that all people using your facility understand any expectations you have for what they should and should not do on your property. This protects you as an employer or business owner from possible workplace injury lawsuits, and it protects your employees and customers from potential hazards.
Whether you run a retail establishment or a manufacturing facility, safety should be one of your top priorities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2019. While we are used to seeing safety signs on construction sites, any business can provide a safer environment by removing hazards when possible and providing proper signage.
To help you determine what safety signage might be right for your business, we’ll take a look at the importance of safety signs, the different types available, the meaning of colors in safety signage, and which signs might be right for your business.
Why are safety signs important in the workplace?
In the United States, employers are legally responsible for providing a safe workplace for employees. Apart from legal responsibility, a safe environment also promotes positive company culture and a happier workforce. Safety signage is one important part of an overall health and safety strategy for your business.
Safety signs easily communicate a variety of messages such as
- where to enter and exit
- where to go in case of an emergency
- how to safely navigate the property
- required personal protection equipment, or PPE
- dangers to look out for
During the pandemic, businesses have also used mandatory signs to show employees or customers what precautions they should take against the spread of COVID-19, such as
- wearing masks
- maintaining social distancing
- limiting occupancy
You can remind employees of special precautions they should take or workplace procedures to follow with your signage as well. There are many different types of safety signs, and you should choose the ones that make sense for your needs.
Types of safety signs
We’ve all seen safety signs at one time or another, but do you know all the options that are available? Here’s a list of different types of safety signs and their meanings to consider for your business.
These are signs that let you know about specific potential hazards nearby. Warning signs include bold text, images, and colors.
Common warning sign examples include
- Danger: High Voltage
- Caution: Watch for Forklift
- Warning: Unauthorized Personnel Will Be Prosecuted
- Danger: Do Not Enter
Have you ever seen an “emergency exit” sign? That is one of the safety signages in this category. It is among the standard safety signs in the workplace and tells people what to do in case of an emergency. For instance, when there is a fire, the emergency exit points to where people could safely go out of the building.
Most especially now in a pandemic, mandatory safety signs in the workplace are extremely common. This signage category requires people to behave a certain way. For instance, you could see a sign at the entrance of your company’s building that says you should wear a mask or sanitize your hands before you go in. Another example would be signage at the hospital for personnel to wear personal protective equipment or PPE.
You are probably familiar with the sign with a red circle and a diagonal line across it, covering a lit cigarette. It is a sign of “no smoking.” That is one of the examples of the prohibition sign. If the mandatory sign tells people what to do, the prohibition sign tells them what not to do.
Colors of the Safety Signs and Symbols
According to the Health and Safety Authority, different colors and shapes relay different messages. For instance, the color red is used to denote prohibition or ‘do not’ messages, but blue is used for required actions. This is because people retain information more when they see colors or any illustration. Here are the common colors used in safety signage and their associated meanings.
For mandatory signs, blue is the color of choice. It tells what people should do and the items they should be using. Basically, this color signifies commands, such as “wear your personal protective equipment,” that you can commonly see at a hospital or manufacturing facility. This is a good choice, because blue is thought to increase trustworthiness.
This color is associated with the emergency category. For many of us, the color green means “go.” When a traffic light turns green, it means you can pass through the intersection. The same thing goes with safety signs. When you see a green emergency sign, that means that you should get going to escape from something.
Red has a long wavelength which makes it more visible to people than other colors. Therefore, it is associated with danger and warning. This is why you can see red on most prohibition signs. Have you ever noticed that the word “ambulance” in an ambulance is written in red? That is because of its readability, thanks to its placement in the color spectrum.
Yellow draws your attention better than any other color. In a traffic light, yellow is the sign that warns you to stop because the traffic light will turn red at any second. Yellow is connected to warning signs because it is easy to notice. Yellow letters are not easy to read, so warning signs often have a yellow background and feature a triangle shape.
What safety signs in the workplace should you use?
Depending on your type of business, you will need different signs to ensure the health and safety of your employees, customers, and visitors. Apart from common signs for entrance and exit, here are a few other signs you should have.
- Slippery floor. Due to the recent health crisis, it is crucial to disinfect high-traffic areas. When cleaned, the floor can get slippery. Because of that, you can probably see this sign in your office. It is also distinct since it comes in yellow color with a black illustration of a man who looks like he’s slipping.
- Fire extinguisher. It’s common to have signs that tell you where certain safety tools are located. One example is a sign that tells you where the fire extinguisher is placed. This sign comes in red to let people know that they should leave it alone unless there’s an emergency.
- Wash your hands. Even before the pandemic, these signs were often found in the bathroom near the sink. This sign comes in the color blue since it is a sign that is telling you to do something. It is mandating you to wash or clean your hands. Recently, signs have been added to encourage people to sanitize their hands as well.
- Safety first. These signs are usually green and rectangular in color and remind people that they should think about how to work safely before anything else. Breaking safety protocol can be dangerous to everyone present, and these signs remind employees to consider their actions carefully.
- Caution. Is there something in your workplace that people should look out for? Maybe a forklift drives through walking space every now and then, or maybe there’s a step in an unusual location. Let everyone know about it with a caution sign.
Should every business in every industry use safety signs in the workplace?
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Yes, every business can benefit from using safety signage in the workplace. When expectations are clearly set, you can look forward to better behavior and a safer work environment.
Don’t wait until an accident happens. You should have a variety of signs that tell people what to do, what not to do, and advise them of any dangers or hazards that may be present. The clearer you can be, the better.
Protect yourself, your employees, and your business starting now! Cobra Systems has easy-to-use signage printers you can use to print industry-standard workplace safety signs in-house.
How we can help you ensure a safe workplace environment
We help our clients incorporate the best workplace safety practices to protect themselves, their employees, and their business. If you are looking for industrial signage or safety label solutions, contact us. We are always happy to help.