The Power of Color Coding: Floor Marking

Colors are used everywhere to signify different meanings. We create order, understanding, and cohesion with color coding. For example, all drivers are aware of the color code used for traffic stop lights. Red is stop, green is go, and yellow is slow down. In fact, the color coding on stoplights is so easy to follow that even my 4 year old daughter knows the meanings of the colors. My question is, if color coding is so effective in some places such as on stop lights for directing traffic, why can’t it be that easy in the workplace as well?

When some people hear the words “color coding” they attach some sort of negative stigma to it and believe right away that the codes will be impossible to learn and remember. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks… Right? Wrong! Color coding is not the enemy, it is not just another thing to add to an already overflowing plate, instead it should be viewed as a useful tool which can help everyone stay safe and enhance organization in the workplace. A well color coded workplace can elicit multiple benefits such as:

  • Increased levels of production
  • Less accidents
  • Increases in safety
  • Higher levels of organization
  • Employees feel confident in work environment

What Does OHSA Say about Color Coding?

When it comes to workplace safety, OHSA is one of the main players in creating and enforcing workplace safety standards. However, when it comes to using specific colors to demarcate between specific areas and hazards, OHSA does not specify mandated colors. In other words, the colors used to mark the floors of industrial work environments are not “one size fits all.” What may work well for one business may not work as well for another. Essentially, it is up to the business itself to determine which color coding system would be appropriate. While some may consider this a good thing and embrace full freedom of color coding. On the other hand, this may create confusion for workers who switch jobs or work facilities. Let’s get to the nitty gritty, isn’t our number one goal the safety of employees? The answer should be a resounding yes! In order to achieve safety, we must create some sort of color guide that can be utilized. This is where ANSI comes in.

What are ANSI’s Color Coding Recommendations?

According to ANSI Z535.1-1998 there are some pertinent recommendations in place to help create some sort of uniformity among workplaces. ANSI has made the following color recommendations in regards to floor marking and safety signage:

Red: This color can indicate firefighting equipment. It may also indicate areas featuring some sort of hazards or areas that contain scrap, defects, or red tag items.

Orange: Orange is usually considered the color to utilize for organizational purposes. For instance, materials that are being held for inspection are usually held in orange areas.

Yellow: Yellow should be indicative of using caution. Yellow is often reserved for marking off pathways, aisle ways, or work cells.

Green, Blue, or Black: These colors are often used to identify works in progress. This would include things like raw materials and finished goods.

White: White is a general purpose color that is often utilized to mark off equipment and/or storage areas.

Some Important Things to Remember about Color Coding

Color coding can be a hefty job, especially if you don’t have any color coding in place or if you are looking to completely re-color code everything. However, despite the work involved many proponents agree that a concrete and well organized color coding system can make any workplace safer and more effective. Nonetheless, there are some tips to make life just a little easier when engaging in floor marking color codes.

1. Use as Few Colors as Possible

This is a time when less definitely is better. If you are color coding your workplace using every color imaginable, nobody is going to know or understand the meaning of the color code. Not only does using too many colors defeat the purpose of a color code (as people will overlook the meanings of the colors) but it will also be difficult to manage as well. Instead, choose a few basic colors and stick with them. When only a few colors are used, employees will remember them better as well.

2. Keep it Consistent

If green means safety equipment in one area, orange shouldn’t mean safety equipment in another. A color code should be consistent. Sometimes larger companies have many different departments and because each department does different jobs they let them act as a sort of an “independently run community.” If this is the case in your business, it may be even harder to keep things consistent. However, it is truly key that all departments follow the same color code so if one employee from a particular department enters a different department he or she will still know and understand the color code.

3. Train Employees on the Code

Great, you have a color code! However, if employees don’t know it or understand it than what is it worth? In all honesty, not much more than the paint or tape used to create it. For a color code to be truly effective, everybody should know and understand it. Now I’m not suggesting that you give weekly tests on color code basics. Nonetheless, I am suggesting that you provide some sort of training to employees to introduce them to the color code and then follow up with refresher sessions as needed. Furthermore, no new employee should even step foot out onto the work floor without first being introduced and aware if the color code in place.

4. Floor Marking is Not Just Lines on the Floor

If you think that floor marking is just about putting lines onto the floor, then that’s all it will ever be. For color coding to be truly effective, it must be made an important and critical practice throughout the work facility. For instance, don’t just color code a small portion of the work facility, do it right by creating a standard color code throughout all areas. This helps to ensure that the color code is given due importance.

5. Maintain the Code

Once a standard color code is put into action, the second biggest step is to maintain it. It doesn’t matter whether your facility uses paint or tape to embrace color coding, however, it does matter that the floor marking lines are clearly visible at all times. Wear and tear is a common concern within many industrial environments, especially those which utilize forklifts and other motor vehicle sources. This is why it is important to use line marking products that last and are able to withstand high traffic levels. Let’s face it, who really wants to go out and replace floor markings every month or so?

Never underestimate the power of a well color coded work facility. In order to create an environment of safety, order, and increased levels of production take the time to create an efficient and manageable color coding system and implement it business wise.

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