Keeping Your Labels Intact
Affixing a safety, hazard or instructions-related label to your product or machine is an important step in the safety process. That’s because it provides critical information to keep user’s safe. However, a label is no good if it falls off before anyone can read it. Even the highest quality labels can be subject to peeling and weathering over time if care isn’t given to the situation at hand. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent these things from happening. It comes down to careful consideration of the machine’s environment of use, the material used to create the label, and how the label is applied.
If you’re an engineer in charge of safety for the products your company puts into the marketplace, you’d be well served to pay strong attention to the materials that go into the safety labels installed on those products. It’s not entirely unusual to see commercial and industrial equipment on a plant floor or outdoors in use with safety labels peeling off, delaminating or fading – but it is a major safety and liability concern. This is a problem that begins and ends with the label’s design, manufacture, and initial application.
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Common Labeling Selection
Some of the most common errors people make in selecting and applying a label for use on their equipment are as follows:
1. The Size of the Label. This is one of the first and most obvious issues when it comes to label malfunction on equipment. If your label is too big for your product — or not designed for a curve or taper — then it can flag or bulge. At Clarion Safety, we offer a multitude of different label sizes and shapes, including custom options, to help you avoid this problem.
2. The Equipment Itself. Some equipment pieces have noticeable seams and surface irregularities which can make it hard for the label to be applied correctly. Regardless of the type of equipment, you need to make sure it’s dry and clean prior to application. Below are some different surfaces you may encounter in the application process and their respective difficulties.
- Smooth Flat Surfaces – Smooth metals, glass and high surface energy plastics all offer a very good surface for permanent labels to stay put long term, or for the duration needed for removable labels.
- Textured and Porous Surfaces – Textured surfaces reduce the amount of surface area available for the label to stick to. Porous surfaces absorb more of the adhesive. Using a thicker and softer adhesive fills in the gaps, adhering the label to a larger surface area.
- Curved or Flexible Surfaces – Due to the nature of a non-flat surface, using the incorrect adhesive means the label material may naturally want to straighten out and come away before the label has stuck properly. Therefore, an adhesive that grabs and cures quickly is needed to hold the label in place, fast.
- Low and High Energy Surfaces – Surface energy refers to how non-stick something is. The lower the surface energy, the more non-stick it will be. Surface energy is an important factor when considering the adhesive bond.
3. The Base Material. Double checking the type of labeling material you need before ordering is extremely important, as indoor versus outdoor labels have different environmental requirements and different guarantees depending on the conditions they will be subjected to. Selecting high quality base materials and over laminates will increase the projected lifespan of your label, helping work towards reducing the liability as a product manufacturer, and better fulfilling your duty to warn. This also applies to the environment in which the equipment will be stored in regularly after affixing the label. Daily chemicals and temperature changes should be taken into consideration when selecting a material for use. Clarion Safety offers both indoor and outdoor polyester base material and over laminate options with various options for improved scratch resistance, writable options, temporary peel-off over laminates for painting, and more.
4. Contact With/Type of Adhesive. If the back of your label comes into contact with finger grease, sweat, oil, dirt, rubber, or wax it can cause the adhesive on your label to hardly stick at all. For example, if you touch the edge of the label with your fingers, you can expect the corner or side to start peeling first. Even if your label’s contact is pristine, the type of adhesive you use is paramount to the success of your label, as it is the first point of contact with your equipment and will determine whether it will last in your environment. Types of adhesives available at Clarion Safety include:
- High temperature adhesives for short-term heat resistance.
- Low temperature adhesives for temperatures below freezing.
- Adhesives resistant to most solvents for wash down environments.
- Adhesives resistant to UV exposure.
- Adhesives for bonding to low and high surface energies.
- Thicker adhesives for bonding to textured and powder coated paint surfaces.
- Air bubble flow out structured adhesive for perfect application of large labels.
The temperature, humidity and even the application method (by hand or by machine) can affect how well your label adheres to your equipment. Below are some quick tips for label application environments.
- Keep the labels in their sealed bags until ready for use.
- Try and store your labels at 50 percent relative humidity.
- Store labels and equipment at room temperature, if possible.
- Make sure you wipe down equipment with a lint free rag and that it’s dry and clean.
Safety’s Best Practice Application Process
When it comes to applying labels properly, our visual safety communication experts here at Clarion Safety can help with recommendations and steps to take to apply labels for optimum use. Along with that, we also provide complimentary application tools, such as squeegees and sleeves with every first time order. For an entire and comprehensive look, reference our guide of Application Procedures for Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Backed Labels . If you have any questions about labeling best practices or selecting the best label for you equipment, please reach out to our team of safety professionals today!