How You Can Enhance a Visual Workplace for Safety
One of the most effective ways to quickly improve the overall safety of your facility is to create a more visual environment. A visual workplace enhances safety in many ways, and can help to reduce or eliminate some of the most common hazards that are currently present.
There are many different ways to implement visual safety items in your facility, and most of them are very easy and affordable, which is ideal for most facilities.
What is a Visual Workplace?
When thinking about a visual workplace, you really need to start out by understanding exactly what that means. To put it extremely simply, a visual workplace is any facility that relies heavily on people’s sight in order to help prevent accidents and injuries. There are many different products that you can make or purchase to help enhance your safety with a visual workplace.
Here are some of the most popular products that you can consider, and a little bit of information on how they should be used:
|Floor Marking Tape||Floor marking tape is a long lasting, durable tape that can be placed virtually anywhere in a facility. Using different colors and patterns, you can quickly convey a message to those in the area when they see it.|
|Safety Labels||Using your industrial label printer (similar to this) you can create all types of safety labels. In some cases, these types of labels will be required by OSHA or other organizations. In others, they are just a great option for conveying information quickly.|
|Signs||Placing safety signs throughout the facility is one of the easiest ways to add a visual element to your safety efforts. There are dozens of different types of signs including warnings, dangers, and informational signs.|
|Floor Marking Shapes||Just like floor marking tape, you can place different shapes in different areas of the facility. When properly trained, employees will know what each shape means. These are great because they can stand out and are easy to see from a distance.|
|Safety Lighting||Most people are used to relying on lights to improve safety. The most obvious example of this is traffic lights on the street. Your facility can also implement lights in different areas to quickly convey a message.|
|Visual Clothing||Supplying visual clothing such as a reflective safety vest can help ensure the employees are easy to see no matter where they are in the facility.|
|Visual Barriers||Things like cones and barrels are typically thought of only as barriers to keep people out of an area. In addition to this, however, they are also important pieces of visual safety equipment.|
|Visual Safety Boards||Setting up a safety board is a great option for many facilities. These boards can identify and draw attention to specific hazards that may be in the area that day. If a shipment of a specific chemical is set to arrive, for example, this can be placed on the board so everyone is prepared.|
Take the time to go through this list of visual safety products, as well as any others that you may need for your facility. Knowing what is available is one of the best places to start when you want to create a visual workplace to enhance the safety.
How a Visual Workplace Enhances Safety
For most people, it is quite obvious that a visual workplace enhances safety. When asked specifically about how it can help with this, it really isn’t nearly as clear. The reality is, however, that there are many different safety benefits your company will enjoy by improving the way you use visual safety items.
The following are a few key ways that using visual workplace practices will help to enhance the overall safety of your facility:
- Easier than Reading – Visual safety items are much easier to understand than having to read something. For example, if you train the facility that red floor tape means that there is a fire hazard in the area so they need to avoid making sparks or open flames, they will understand immediately. If they have to stop and read a sign that says the same thing, however, it will take much longer.
- Long Distance Warning – Visual items are also much easier to see from a very long distance. In most cases, employees can see a safety sign, floor tape or a safety light from nearly the entire distance of the facility. That is not always the case with other safety options.
- Standardized – There are many visual workplace standards that are used in facilities across the country and even around the world. When you follow these standards, employees and visitors will likely be much more familiar with their meaning right from the beginning. One great example of this is the National Fire Protection Association has a wide range of different safety standards, including for visual safety products.
- Customizable – While it may seem odd that visual safety items can be both standardized and customizable, it is a reality. You can find a color or pattern for a safety sign, for example, which is not already set by another agency. You can then define it however you want, and provide the training for your facility.
- Immediate Communication – There is really no faster way to convey a message than through a visual sign, label or other item. People can see at just a glance, and get the message that needs to be conveyed. It is often possible to communicate an entire message simply by putting up a specific color or pictogram somewhere in your facility, and providing everyone with the proper training.
The bottom line is that when you are able to communicate a message visually, it is much faster and easier than any other method of communication. When it comes to communicating about safety, speed and clarity are the two most important factors.
While most visual signs and products won’t go into great detail about a specific topic, they will rapidly convey a very clear and concise message. For example, having a large red sign that says “DANGER” at the top with a pictogram of a skull and cross bones will immediately convey a message that there is poison or some other harmful product nearby.
This quick message will allow anyone entering the area to quickly take precautions to ensure they don’t accidently come into contact with the harmful substance. In the event that more information needs to be shared, it can be handled by those who work in the area or even through the use of a manual or book placed in the area.
Without this early warning, however, no amount of in depth or detailed information would have given any benefit, since it would likely have been too late by the time the person was able to get through it all.
The Simplicity of a Visual Workplace
Another great way that a visual workplace enhances safety is by being so easy and affordable to implement. This might not seem like a direct benefit, but it really is. When you can show management teams that you can get great safety benefits without requiring any significant down time, or costing very much money, it is much more likely to get approved.
For many facilities, getting approval to implement any type of change, including a change related to safety, can be very difficult. When these changes don’t take place, there will obviously be no benefits enjoyed by the facility.
With this in mind, it is easy to see how the simplicity and affordability of most visual safety products are actually a great example of why they are such an effective option.
One Essential Task before Making a Single Change
In many cases a facility may be tempted to begin thinking of and implementing changes that will help to improve their visual workplace. While this enthusiasm is a good thing, it is important to ensure you don’t put the cart before the horse.
Once you’ve come up with a change you want to make, it is absolutely essential that you take the time to consider the training implications. You cannot simply put a change in place without training all the employees.
There are generally three areas of training that you need to address for any change you want to put in place. The following table will help give you a basic outline of what needs to be done:
|Why it is Needed||How to Provide it|
|Immediate Training||Immediate training should be given to all employees who will be effected to the change. It needs to be given before the change is put in place.||Depending on the scope of the change, you can provide one-on-one training or offer it to large groups.|
|New Employee Training||Updating your new employee training to include these changes will help ensure new people are aware of the visual workplace environment.||Incorporate this into any existing new employee training program you are currently offering.|
|Ongoing Training||Offering refresher courses to help keep these changes fresh on people’s minds can be very helpful. You can also include any minor updates during these sessions.||Including this into any other ongoing training classes can be effective. You can also consider sending out flyers or even holding drills, depending on what the specific change was.|
As you can see, the training does not have to be overly complex or difficult. In fact, this is another of the many benefits to a visual workplace. Since many people will be able to quickly pick up on the change due to its simplicity, it won’t require any extensive training.
In fact, many facilities have found that they can add it to other training programs in most cases, or even just send out an email or paper training document for people to review and sign. While it is not difficult, it is still very important to ensure you do it properly.
Improve Your Visual Workplace with these 10 Steps
Now that you are familiar with the general concepts behind why a visual workplace enhances the safety of the facility, let’s take a moment to look at specific things that can be done to implement it in your facility.
Of course, each facility is unique so these ideas won’t necessarily apply to every situation. In most cases, however, they can be adjusted to fit almost any workplace.
- Ledge Warnings – Identify any ledge in the facility (commonly found on shipping docks, cat walks and other areas). Using floor marking tape, safety cones or other items, make sure those working in the area have a clear warning of where the ledge is before they approach it.
- Indoor Driving Areas – One of the easiest visual workplace improvements you can make is using floor marking tape to designate specific areas for driving indoor vehicles such as high-lows. This will let people know where they can safely walk without worry of getting hit.
- Hazardous Material Labels – Whenever you have any hazardous material coming into the facility, make sure it is properly labeled. In addition, if you move chemicals or other products into other containers when in use, these containers should also be properly labeled.
- Locating Safety Equipment – Using labels, safety tape or safety signs, you can identify where safety equipment such as emergency eye washing stations or fire extinguishers are located. You can use a visual indicator high up on the wall so it will be visible from throughout the facility.
- Organizing Personal Protection Equipment – In many facilities there are supply areas where all the PPE is kept. Over time, these areas can get quite unorganized, which can make it hard to find what is needed. To keep this from happening, use labels or other signs to identify where each item belongs.
- Labeling Equipment for Maintenance Scheduling – A well maintained vehicle or machine is going to be much safer than one that falls into a state of disrepair. Printing off labels to identify each machine, and when it last had specific types of maintenance done can serve as a great reminder of when things need to be completed.
- Visual Safety Board – Using a large whiteboard or other display item to post safety reminders, records or other safety information is a great idea. While it may seem simplistic, this type of thing helps by keeping safety on the minds of everyone in the facility.
- Maintain Existing Visual Safety Products – Many facilities do a great job at implementing visual safety projects, but then over time they fall out of use. Replacing labels, floor tape, signs and other items as they become damaged is very important. In addition, keeping these items clean will help ensure they can be seen easily.
- Establish Internal Standards – One problem many facilities have with visual safety is that each department makes up their own uses. While this may be better than not using visual safety items at all, it is far more effective to have standards in place throughout the facility. For example, an orange background on a sign might mean there is a risk of objects falling in the area.
- Encourage Employee Suggestions – Putting a ‘visual safety suggestion box’ out and encouraging employees to submit ideas is a great way to keep your facility improving. Nobody knows better than the front line employees about what dangers there are, and potentially how to fix them.
These ten ideas can be a great place to start, but they should not be seen as all you can do. Every facility needs to take the time to figure out how to best implement a visual workplace, and then take action to get it done.
Remember, not every idea you have will be effective. Through trial and error, and constant effort, however, your facility will quickly become much safer because of the efforts you have put into improving the visual safety of the entire workplace.
Start Focusing on Visual Improvements Today
If you are looking for the fastest and most effective way to improve the overall safety of your workplace, few options can compete with focusing on creating a more visual workplace. Facilities who put forth the effort to identify areas where they can improve, and properly make those improvements, quickly find that a visual workplace enhances safety in many great ways.
Remember, you don’t need to overhaul the entire facility overnight. You can start out by making one small change and see how it goes. After it is a success, you can plan and implement another. Over time, your facility will transform to become a much more visual area, which is also much safer for everyone involved.
This not only means your employees will be working in a safer environment, but also that visitors to the area will be protected and even the facility itself will be safer. As we all know, a safe workplace is required for a productive workplace, so take the time today to see where you can begin to create a safer, more visual work environment today.
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