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Health and Safety - Warnings


Whether it concerns employees in a place of work or members of the public out and about, warnings serve to alert them to the presence of danger and will usually require them to take action by either doing something (e.g. getting out of the way, wearing a hard hat) or deliberately not doing something such as not smoking or not using a mobile telephone in the vicinity.

Warnings Need to be Understood
An emergency assembly area sign

One of the most important aspects of a warning is that they must be easily and quickly understood so that a person can take the appropriate action in time to avoid coming to harm. Many warning signs are either a picture and words or even just a picture. Not only does this visual representation allow for a quick understanding, but it also means that those who cannot understand the language will know what message is trying to be conveyed. This is particularly useful in locations such as airports or popular tourist attractions where there are likely to be lots of people of different nationalities present.

Audible warnings also have their uses, but they are more likely to be misunderstood. In terms of language, an audible instruction could be misunderstood or not understood at all if the person does not understand the language. If the audible warning is not an instruction but rather just a siren or bell or beeping sound, then if a worker or member of the public has not been pre-informed of what it means, then they will not know what they should do when they hear the alarm as they will not know the nature of the emergency! As far as workers are concerned, being informed of the various audible warnings that they may hear (including being given a demonstration of it) and what they should do in the event of hearing it should be part of their health and safety induction training as the emergency could take place at any time, including on their first day of work.

The Importance of Signs for Health and Safety

Signs are everywhere, and play an important role not only when it comes to health and safety, but also in everyday life. A person will see so many signs during the course of a day such as driving to work or walking through the street that they are likely not to realise just how prevalent and numerous they are. These signs can vary in intent:- those that inform, those that warn of potential danger or hazards, signs that provide directions etc.

Signs as warnings

As far as health and safety is concerned, the majority of signs will be those that warn of danger. They are designed to be highly visible so that they do not go unnoticed and so provide the intended warnings which may be the difference between a person or persons having a serious accident or not. In this way they can literally be the difference between life and death.

Signs can provide instructions, directions and guidance

As well as providing warnings, signs can also give instructions and directions which need to be followed in the event of an emergency. Typical examples include emergency exit signs which easily show people where to exit the building in the event of an incident such as a fire.

Visual signs

Emergency exit signs are also a good example of the importance of visual signs. Whilst some signs are made up of words which can provide useful instructions, many signs are designed to convey their message with a picture so that they can be understood by people regardless of what language they speak. A picture sign can also be more easily understood in the event of an emergency and allow for quicker evacuation than if a person had to stop and read the words on it.

Signs overload

Of course all these signs everywhere can lead to a person being overwhelmed by the information. As mentioned earlier, many signs rely on their visual impact to grab the attention of someone so that they take in the information being conveyed by the sign. However, if there are too many signs, the eye can be overloaded and will not notice or take the perhaps vital information on board. It is therefore important that signs are kept to a minimum so that the most essential information can be conveyed to the viewer.

The Importance Of Workplace Safety Posters

Workplace safety posters are posters or notices that talk about and promote safety in any work area prone to accidents. They could display correct procedures, processes, or even attitudes that are "good to follow" and help avoid mishaps. They could use shock, alarm, or even humor to get their point across. The good ones really work to some degree, whereas many others just become part of the background. This article talks about some things to consider when putting up safety posters in general.

Please note: The posters talked about in this article are not to be confused with the Health and Safety Law poster which is required by law to be displayed in UK businesses when workers have not been provided with a copy of the approved leaflet which outlines health and safety law.

There are various kinds of workplace safety posters. There could be manual handling posters that detail correct techniques, procedures, or body postures to follow to ensure safety for all. Then there are health and safety posters that deal more specifically with individual safety. Another class of posters is the fire safety posters that, as the name implies, help prevent or control fires. All of these posters are important in different circumstances and workplace areas. The first thing is to decide which poster to use and in what frequency and location.

Once you choose the workplace safety poster topics that you need and the areas where they will be placed, the next job is to decide on the communication style. Humor is a popular choice but does not work well for everything. Sometimes alarm, surprise, or even shock is more effective. The final choice will depend upon a combination of the area of use, the message being communicated, and the overall company philosophy and culture.

People start to notice only what is new. Using the same poster beyond a point can be useless as it merges into the background. It is important to change the posters every few weeks or at the very least rotate between locations so that everybody has a chance to view all relevant messaging. It is also important to change the style of communication to make people more receptive and make the posters appeal to those who may have not paid much attention to the meaning the first time around. The same problem can occur with safety warning signs when too many of them take away the impact of each, with potentially deadly consequences.

Workplace safety posters are commonly used in factories, commercial kitchens, shop floors, and other places where there is a possibility of an accident. As alluded to above, it is important that employees are not bombarded with messages. Not only can they suffer from information overload, but too many posters will begin to appear as background colour without being the impactful communication which is required.

Health and Safety Training

It will be worthwhile to combine the use of posters with actual workshops and health and safety training courses to ensure that people understand the poster messages and can work safely. Having a thoroughly educated workforce in safety goes far beyond having them attend a NEBOSH General Certificate course or attend a one-off bespoke health and safety training session and putting up some informative posters around the workspace. People can pass by a poster a 100 times without really changing the way they work, which is why it is vital to provide continuous training and refresher programs on a regular basis.

Not Just Health and Safety Posters

There are all kinds of posters apart from workplace safety posters. These include posters that help build teamwork, promote satisfaction and other mood changes, or just posters meant to bring a little colour into the surroundings. If you are not aware of the benefits of using posters, schedule an appointment with a vendor right away. At least have a look at the many creative options out there. You can even try and customise a poster if you have something specific that you would like to say. It could be the company vision, mission, or just the 10 commandments of the boss. They can be great tools at events, trade fairs, and as promotional advertisements.

Is a Health and Safety Action a Rule Violation or Down to a Lack of Knowledge?

A lot of accidents affecting the health and safety of workers are caused either by a deliberate by-passing of rules or through a lack of knowledge regarding the risks and dangers to health that may be present in their line of work.

Where lack of knowledge is to blame, this can be remedied through health and safety training which provides workers with the information they are lacking regarding potential risks and the consequences of their actions or inactions. This training can either be dedicated to a defined topic such as manual handling training, sharps training or COSHH hazardous substance training, or it can be a health and safety course which covers a wide variety of issues and the most common examples of dangers in a typical place of work like the NEBOSH General Certificate or the IOSH Managing Safely course. There are also those which focus on specific industries such as the NEBOSH Construction Certificate, SMSTS and SSSTS certificates which are dedicated to construction site safety.

If a health and safety violation in rule-based, this can often be much more difficult to correct. There may be a culture within the company of not complying either in whole or in part with applicable health and safety legislation, in which case it is the responsibility of management to correct this. If these instructions actually come from managers, for example to try and reduce costs by not providing the necessary protective equipment, then workers can report them to the relevant authorities. After all, it is them risking their health and their safety by doing the work, not the managers.

Changing Health and Safety Attitudes

As much as training workers how to do things safely is important, a similarly vital part of the education process is explaining to people - both workers and managers- as to why health and safety is so important and why it is imperative that things are done in a certain way and control measures are put into place and enforced in order to prevent accidents and incidents from occurring.

Changing attitudes can be a large part of the battle with regards to the creation of a positive health and safety culture within the organisation. When the problems come from management in terms of encouraging the foregoing of rules and regulations and circumventing any safety protocols that are in place, either an accident, near-miss or, most preferably, an inspection, may be able to convince them to amend this policy.

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