Almost all workplaces have at least a few signs around to remind employees and visitors to stay safe, as well as to advise them how to do it. These signs are ever-present, they don’t take holidays, they speak the universal language of images and they don’t take a salary. They’re indispensable when it comes to promoting and maintaining safety in the workplace.
However, not everyone reacts the same way when they see a bright sign telling them how to lift a box properly, to remember their goggles, or to extinguish their cigarette before entering the warehouse.
Some people get a bit affronted – why should some sign order them around? They’ve got away without wearing their goggles for years, so they’re going to carry on the way they always have. They’re an adult, after all. Others react more sensibly; they know that the signs are there for a reason, even the slightly humorous custom sign that reminds them to wash their hands after a bathroom break. They’re grateful for the visual prompt and reminder.
Don’t see the signs as nagging, see them as caring
That sign telling you not to ride on the conveyor belt isn’t there to stop you having fun, it’s there to stop you losing a finger or getting your hair torn out. The no smoking sign is there to help you to not start a fire. People are very complacent about cigarettes, but as many as 95,000 fires a year can be started by carelessly discarded cigarettes or matches. Out of these fires, there will be businesses lost and, more importantly, lives lost or ruined.
You can stop seeing the signs
Signs are visual – they act as visual reminders to do something (or not to do it); but because they’re there all the time, your eyes can start to pass them over and your brain stops taking in the information, no matter how simply-presented it is. Think about it – can you remember the titles of the biggest books on your shelves? Or the finer details of the prints in your hallway? You’ve stopped seeing them. The trouble is, the prints in your hallway aren’t there to keep you safe, so it’s no great shakes if you can’t remember how many people are at the watercolor riverside picnic.
Try to see your safety signs with new eyes
If you notice that employees – or even you yourself – are starting to ignore signage, then it’s time to do something about it.
You could refresh the signs themselves; maybe they’ve become dirty and lacklustre after a few years of service. You could hold a quick quiz for your staff on the content of each sign and offer a prize for the winner. Whatever you do to bring the signs back into people’s minds, you should make it clear that they’re there for a very good reason. No-one wants to get hurt, or be the cause of an accident that puts someone out of work for months.
People were injured at work all the time in the “good ol’ days”, so those health and safety laws didn’t just spring out of nowhere to cause a nuisance!