We encounter a large number of safety signs wherever we go. However, many of these signs do not serve their intended purpose because they are not easily comprehensible, legible, or even visible. Sometimes they contain too much information. For a safety sign to be effective, it needs to be visible, easily readable, and understandable so that even people belonging to different cultures and with differing levels of literacy can be cautioned appropriately.
A good safety sign should ideally not only provide the warning but also the potential consequence of not following it. The language used should be clear and direct, and the most critical information should be right at the beginning in an easily readable typeface. Take care to prevent ambiguity and identify the hazard and the course of action expected from the readers. Placing the signal word like “Danger”, “Caution”, “Warning”, etc. at the top of the sign will have a better impact with the rest of the information following it. The message should be as brief and as clear as possible. The text must not be in “all caps” since it is processed more slowly; using a combination of capital letters, title casing, and sentence casing is the best.
Using images along with supporting text make safety signs more effective as they are understood faster and better. Additionally, by using images, the safety messages are understood better by people from diverse backgrounds, speaking different languages, and having low literacy. For example, if an out of order sign is designed well, it will be understood by everyone. Moreover, the speed of comprehension of the message is enhanced, which can be a critical factor in ensuring safety.
It is important to understand and follow the recommendations issued by OSHA regarding the colors to be used for different kinds of safety signage. Red indicates danger, orange indicates a warning, and yellow is used for caution. Following these guidelines can help people recognize the severity of the safety messages and prevent confusion even when workers move from one workplace to another.
Important Goals for Safety Signage
For a safety sign to be effective, it has to be visible because poor placement will not permit it to do its job even if it is well-designed. Ideally, the sign should use a combination of color, images, and text to improve the recognition and comprehension of the signs so that people can take appropriate action. Placing signs in places where they can be easily seen by the target audience is vital. However, it is important to avoid too many signs at the same place as people may not only skip a few but also not focus properly on them. The size of the sign also plays a critical role in it being seen. Signs that are very small or have too much information in small typefaces are more likely to be ignored. According to BBC, using reflective signs can improve their brightness and make them more effective.
For safety signage to perform as intended, it must be highly visible, communicate the information directly to the target audience, and be relevant to the hazard and the audience.