Consistency is key for your product safety labels – but we frequently uncover issues related to lack of consistency during the label assessment services that we provide.
Why is consistency so important? The reason we standardize visual safety communication, including the design principles and symbols that make up product safety labels, is to have consistency. The best practice ANSI and ISO standards provide a common ground, an industry baseline for expected function, performance and safety. That includes the content and format of safety labels as well as their materials. The end goal is that these efforts to drive consistency will result in greater recognition and understanding of safety messages.
Multiple labels on a machine using a systems approach and consistent best practices
In a typical safety label assessment, we communicate about the importance of following best practices consistently across product lines, company divisions and even markets. But the client may be focused solely on an immediate need at hand and not ready to look at updating other labels, even on that specific product, let alone their full label program. Unfortunately, this could put both the users of their product and their company at risk; with inconsistent warnings comes a greater potential for miscommunication and accidents. To avoid safety incidents, you want to give your users the best possible chance to see, understand and heed your warnings.
There can also be liability implications of inconsistency. Keep in mind, it only takes one deficient label to have a lawsuit. If an accident occurs and your warnings are challenged in a product liability suit, if you have one out-of-date label in your program, an argument could be made that your warnings are inadequate. Labels aren’t just single entities, and looking at them that way could jeopardize your product’s safety. Labels are an element of your overarching product safety and compliance program. It all comes down to consistently using the best practices.
So, what are some of the most common types of inconsistency issues we see? Take a look at our ‘top 5 offenders’ list, below!
5 Safety Label Issues to Steer Clear Of
- A “wallpaper” of labels on a product: A hodgepodge of varying types of warnings is a common outcome when labels are treated on a one-off basis, not as a complete program. Complex messaging equates to complex comprehension. When these situations are assessed to look at best practice alternatives, the final outcome is often a single, multi-message safety label. In other instances where more than one label is required, such as when there are multiple points of potential interaction with a hazard, each label has clear, uniform design principles and the messages work together to reinforce each other.
A ‘wallpaper’ of product safety labels, using different formats, colors and design principles
- Non-standardized or inconsistent use of symbols: This is especially a concern when different manufacturers produce labels. The annex in ANSI Z535.3 tells us that, “Individual safety symbols should be designed, whenever possible, as elements of a consistent visual system.” Right now, as an example, we’re seeing a lot of varying arc flash symbols when there’s a new standardized ISO symbol that can be used.
- Issues with conveying complex messages : There are many different types of label designs that can be used in situations where there’s a complex safety message at hand. It’s important to lean on the ANSI and ISO standards for guidance on the best method for your situation, and to use that approach consistently.
- Varying colors: ANSI Z535.1 safety colors are tightly defined and should be adhered to across all of your safety labels for proper color-coding. Again, this can be a concern when different manufacturers are used to produce labels. Uniform color can help to speed visual recognition.
- Substandard materials: According to ANSI Z535.4, “Product safety signs or labels shall have a reasonable expected life with good color stability, symbol legibility, and word message legibility when viewed at a safe viewing distance…Reasonable expected life shall take into consideration whether the safety sign is permanent or temporary, the expected life of the product and the foreseeable environment of use.” It's important to understand your label’s environment and surface conditions, as well as the latest high-quality material options available, to achieve your durability objectives.
Are you unsure about an aspect of your safety label program or whether or not you’re consistently using today’s best practices? We’re here to help! Contact us today.
Safety sign are a key part of communicating about hazards and mitigating workplace risks. Are you struggling with your facility’s signage in terms of meeting OSHA requirements or implementing today’s ANSI and ISO best practices? Do you have questions on how your safety signs should relate to your risk management and ISO 45001 objectives? You won’t want to miss our [...]
Where can you find Clarion this summer? Lecturing at some of the country’s leading product and workplace safety events! We’re proud to be a part of these conferences and to have the opportunity to share the latest information on best practices for visual safety. We consider these types of activities to be an important part of our mission: protecting people [...]
We get it: safety is a top concern for your workplace, as is meeting necessary compliance rules, like OSHA’s workplace safety requirements.5,190 workers were killed on the job in the U.S. in 2016, and 2.9 million workers suffered nonfatal injuries and illnesses in our country during the same time period. The numbers are staggering and you don’t want [...]
After five years in the making and a collaboration by over 75 countries, the ISO 45001 standard has been published. ISO 45001:2018, Occupational health and safety management systems – Requirements with guidance for use, is the first global standard for occupational health and safety management systems. It gives organizations in the U.S. and around the world a structure [...]
In our daily conversations with product safety engineers and workplace safety professionals, the symbols to use on their safety labels and safety signs is consistently top of mind. The choices can be complex – especially in light of the latest ISO standards update. What style symbol should you use? How many symbols should be shown? What are so-called “supplementary symbols”? Examples [...]
Arc flash is a serious workplace electrical event. It can cause severe safety incidents, resulting in worker injuries and deaths. Using appropriate labels on electrical equipment and signs in workplaces is critical to allowing workers to be more informed about risks and proper precautions to take. Graphical symbols are an important part of these types of warnings, but until [...]
After five years in the making, ISO 45001 was approved for publication this month. As the first global workplace safety standard of its kind, it’s being called a game-changer. It’s expected to publish in March and will replace OHSAS 18001, with a three-year transition period for registrants. Here at Clarion, the development of ISO 45001, which is the result of a [...]
To develop safety label and sign systems that communicate effectively, using consistent, best practice graphical symbols is key. That’s where the work of ISO’s Technical Committee 145 (ISO/TC 145) comes into play. ISO/TC 145 is the only international committee responsible for the standardization of the symbols used on safety labels and safety signs, like those indicating that [...]
You may know that, as part of our passion for safety, Clarion is a longtime and active member of the standards bodies responsible for safety sign and label standards – the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) domestically and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) internationally. That includes, for over twenty years, being a member of [...]