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Follow the Signs to a Safer Workplace

Originally posted by Chris Kilbourne on http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com

Your employees should be familiar with the hazards associated with their own work areas. But as they go about the facility, they may come into casual contact with risks they don’t know about.

Outsiders who come into your facility may also be unaware of the hazards they face.

This is why safety signs and tags are so important. Another important reason is to remind workers daily of the hazards in their own work areas so that they don’t become complacent about hazards.

Yet another reason for safety signs and tags is to warn of hazards that are out of the ordinary, unexpected, or not readily apparent.

Selecting the appropriate safety signs and tags and placing them carefully around your facility to attract the most attention are important elements of your safety program.

Key Issues

In order to use safety signs and tags effectively in your facility and remain in compliance with the OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1910.145), you need to:

  • Identify all hazards. The first step, of course, is to identify all the potential hazards in all parts of your facility. This includes office and industrial areas as well as public areas and locations outside the facility. And, in addition to the more obvious hazards, you must identify those that are out of the ordinary, unexpected, or not readily apparent.
  • Select or design appropriate safety signs and tags. Once you have identified the hazards, you can select appropriate ready-made safety signs and tags or design your own. Whichever option you choose, make sure all signs and tags conform to the requirements of the OSHA regulations. Your signs and tags should also be consistent in format throughout your facility. The regulations also note that all signs should have “rounded or blunt corners and shall be free from sharp edges, burrs, splinters, or other sharp projections.”
  • Use proper wording. According to the regulations, “the wording of any sign should be easily read and concise. The sign should contain sufficient information to be easily understood. The wording should make a positive, rather than negative, suggestion and should be accurate in fact.”
  • Position signs carefully. Signs should be positioned so that they are easily visible and legible from a distance. They must be placed to draw maximum attention to the existing hazards. This means you need to give careful thought to where you locate signs around your facility, and you may need to relocate signs from time to time when you make changes or alterations that affect the visibility or usefulness of existing signs or when the equipment or materials that pose the hazard are moved. In addition, the regulations require that “the ends or heads of bolts or other fastening devices must be located in such a way that they do not constitute a hazard.”
  • Identify safety equipment and fire protection equipment. Make sure that safety equipment such as eyewash stations and safety showers are clearly identified with appropriate signs. Also be sure that all fire equipment is identified with proper signs.
  • Use tags properly and effectively. The regulations also say that “tags shall be used as a means to prevent accidental injury or illness to employees who are exposed to hazardous or potentially hazardous conditions, equipment, or operations which are out of the ordinary, unexpected, or not readily apparent. Tags shall be used until such time as the identified hazard is eliminated or the hazardous operation is completed. Tags need not be used where signs, guarding, or other positive means of protection are being used.” The regulations also require that the signal word on a tag (DANGER, CAUTION, etc.) is legible at a minimum distance of 5 feet or “such greater distance as warranted by the hazard.”
  • Review your sign and tag program whenever new hazards are introduced.Your facility will likely not be in compliance with the regulations if you just put up signs and forget about them. You must review your sign and tag program frequently to make sure it is still performing the task it was designed to do. For example, whenever new hazards are introduced into the workplace, new signs need to be put up right away. And when temporary hazards arise, tags need to be attached to warn employees until the hazard no longer exists.