Product Focus 2020 Safety Signs and Labels

Trends in ... safety signs/labels

Whether they warn employees about slippery floors or bring attention to locked-out equipment, signs and labels play a valuable role in keeping workers safe.

Safety+Health spoke with Tom Smith, regional product manager for safety and facility identification at Milwaukee-based Brady Corp., and Brad Montgomery, vice president of business development for North Smithfield, RI-based National Marker Co., about new developments in the safety signs and labels field.

Safety+Health: Tell us about recent innovations in the safety signs and labels field.

Tom Smith: Creating on-demand signs and labels is really picking up, and new technologies like inkjet sign and label printers are a contributing factor to the trend. With an inkjet printer, you can add high-resolution, full-color images to your signs and labels. This makes it easier to convey site-specific information about your facility because you can add pictures of your own equipment, co-workers and areas to the signs and labels.

Brad Montgomery: A recent innovation isn’t all that recent. In fact, it stretches back to the fall of 2013. At that time, OSHA endorsed best practices related to safety signs, tags and labels by incorporating the 2011 ANSI Z535 standard into its regulations. ANSI Z535 provides guidelines for more effective safety communications. It’s done by using globally recognized ISO symbols/pictorials to overcome language issues in the workplace. It also employs easier-to-read upper/lower case text for the message itself. Most sign manufacturers offer these updated products as standard items. However, workplaces have been slower to adapt this innovation.

S+H: What do you wish employers and workers better understood about the field?

Smith: The materials that the signs and labels are made out of can really impact their usefulness and life span. If you’re choosing a sign or label material solely on a low price, you could be setting yourself up for a quick reorder because it’ll be unreadable faster than you’d expect. While some materials may be more expensive, if you work with a company that puts in the effort to test and design materials to meet specific environmental conditions, the more expensive material will far outlast the cheaper options.

Montgomery: Signs, tags and labels are there to reinforce a safety message – be it a warning, statement of company policy or other. Signage (signs, tags, labels, et al.) is most often the last line of defense when it comes to keeping employees, contractors and visitors safe. Even the best safety training and reinforcement can only go so far, so signage serves as the last opportunity to tell your workforce what to do, what personal protective equipment to wear, what to avoid and what to consider for ensuring they go home safe to what matters most to them.

S+H: What concerns or questions do customers have?

Smith: Are my signs and labels compliant? If you’re creating them on demand, there are software options that provide OSHA-compliant templates with language to use that takes the guess-work out of it. Otherwise, working with an expert in safety compliance ensures any preprinted signs and labels you order will be compliant.

Montgomery: As e-commerce spreads more into the safety products space, customers have begun to question what they’re buying and who they’re buying it from. “Is it the right product?” “Does it meet proper OSHA standards?” “Is the quality good enough that the safety sign or label will still be hanging when the warning is needed most?” We continually tell our customers that their local safety products distributor of choice can answer all these questions, whereby an odd name found online without a phone number likely cannot. Let’s be clear: There are many fantastic web-based distributors, but we encourage you to contact only those that you can truly contact. We all know the phrase: Don’t sacrifice safety.

S+H: What’s on the horizon for safety signs and labels?

Smith: As the durability of inks for inkjet printing improves, it will be easier to create site-specific signs and labels in more areas throughout a facility.

Montgomery: Much is on the horizon. Safety sign manufacturers continue to look for ways to ensure messages get noticed and warnings are observed. Federal, state and local regulations will continue to create the need for specific messages, but other innovations related to communicating safety to employees are in the works. There is no better place to see these innovations than the National Safety Council Congress & Expo, taking place later this year in Indianapolis. One of the most important requests to make when visiting any sign manufacturer booth (or any other manufacturer for that matter) is: “Show me what’s new.” It’s always a welcome question, and the best manufacturers will have plenty to show.

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

Coming next month:

  • Wearables/lone worker devices
  • Security products and lighting

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