Occupational Health and Safety focuses on the well-being of individuals or groups of people in the workplace. Barnett-Schuster (2008:1) states that Occupational Health and Safety is a concept compiled from many different disciplines. Among others, it includes: biological hazards, physical hazards, chemical hazards, mechanical/electrical hazards and psycho-social hazards. The employer has to understand that Occupational Health and Safety should follow a holistic approach. This is why the correct signage in your workplace is so important not only for the health and well being of your employees but that of your own health and safety. Here are 5 reasons why the correct Safety signage is so important
At its core, wayfinding is designed to shuttle users from Point A to Point B. But users can also benefit from safety messages as they navigate facilities of all sizes. Here’s how wayfinding can help users stay safe on the job.
- Steer clear of hazardous areas: Inform users of alternate routes when they might otherwise walk through an area littered with heavy-duty machinery, slippery surfaces, and other dangers.
- Avoid congestion: The more users crowd an area, the more likely they are to encounter (or create) hazards. Help users avoid congested areas and use wayfinding to create safer routes.
- Help workers in emergencies: Wayfinding can send users to fire exits, outline emergency egress routes, and clearly point out fire extinguishers and other lifesaving equipment during emergencies.
Emergency egress routes explain how visual communication should lead employees to emergency exits.
- OHS standard for egress lays out several rules for clear “Exit” signs.
- Every exit must be visible and marked by a sign reading “Exit.”
- Line-of-sight to an “Exit” sign must be visible at all times.
- The word “Exit” must be legible with lettering at least 6″ (15.2 cm) high.
- Signs must be posted along the exit route, indicating access to the nearest exit, when a path isn’t obvious.
- If a door can be mistaken for an exit, it must be marked “Not an Exit” (or with a similar message). It may also be identified by its actual use (such as a closet or restroom).
Arc Flash Safety Signage
OHS standard for electrical safety doesn’t specifically mention arc flash labels, but the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is a widely-accepted approach for keeping workers safe with clear visual communication. The standard includes requirements for electrical safety signage that, in addition to obvious warnings, can provide a wealth of information. Per the standard, workplace electrical equipment should be labelled with the following:
- Nominal System Voltage: This identifies a piece of equipment or circuit’s voltage class and communicates the potential shock hazard or degree of danger present.
- Arc Flash Boundary: This is the distance from the equipment at which an unprotected person would probably receive a second-degree burn in the event of an arc flash.
- PPE: This outlines the required PPE for safely working on the labelled equipment.
PPE Safety Signage
Safety signs don’t just warn of hazards; they provide guidance on mitigating danger and promote safe work practices. Use signage to identify which types of PPE should be worn in a given area. Here are a few ideas for suggesting PPE, as well as scenarios when each might come in handy:
- Eye protection: Let workers know when dust, flying particles, or other hazards require workers to use eyewear—and outline which pieces of equipment should be used.
- Fall protection: Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry; use signs to warn workers of fall hazards, and communicate the need for proper fall protection.
- Ear protection: Warn of loud noise in an area, and require workers to use proper ear protection.
Equipment Maintenance Signage
Equipment requires routine maintenance, service, inspection, and repair. Here’s how safety signage can help workers stay safe around equipment in need of service:
- Lockout/Tagout: Let employees know when certain machines require certain actions before servicing and inform employees when a procedure is being performed.
- Instructions: Remind employees to shut machines off before servicing, check fuel or oil levels, and read directions before starting work.
- Specific hazards: Warn employees about a machine’s unique hazards such as the dangers posed by moving parts, high air pressure, and oil pressure so they can take the appropriate steps before starting work.