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Warning signs

Liesbet De Soomer, Marketing Manager at Dymo explains how signage plays an important role in preventing slips and trips and promoting a culture of safety in the workplace          

According to the Health and Safety Executive, in 2015-2016 there were 118,000 slips and trips in UK workplaces. These incidents accounted for over a third (36 per cent) of employee injuries.

Whether it’s a stack of unsupported files or trailing wires in an office, or a discarded shovel on a building site, workplace hazards are common, and many employees will comfortably walk past them every day. However, they can and do cause injuries. When you consider that more than 30 million work days were lost last year due to work-related injuries, there is a strong business case for taking action to reduce worker-caused hazards.

One way to do this is through embedding health and safety into the core culture of the workforce to ensure everyone is acting in a safe manner. It can be challenging to generate a shared health and safety culture in a business, or at a site where different groups congregate, like a university or school. But there are a number of ways to achieve this.

Signs are an effective way to raise the profile of hazards in a workplace, such as a hot tap, electrical sockets or uneven surfaces and changes in floor level. Beyond highlighting the immediate hazard, they will subconsciously help to instil a health and safety culture among employees. As well as providing reminders of a permanent hazard, signs are also an important tool for protecting workers against sudden and unforeseen hazards – such as a wet floor caused by an unexpected water pipe leak.

Where there is a culture of safe working, people will be alert to dangers around them and are more likely to respond in an appropriate manner. That could be by alerting someone to the issue or resolving it themselves.

Signs and labels can also be used to communicate ongoing health and safety reminders and changes. This could be either a reminder to wear the appropriate footwear to avoid slips and falls, or it could be a way of conveying the rationale behind changes in the business. If staff feel informed, educated and in the loop about health and safety, this will help to further generate a shared health and safety culture.

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees is not only important, it is also a legal obligation. The 1996 Health & Safety Signs and Signals Regulations require employers to ensure safety signs are provided and maintained in circumstances where there is a significant risk to health and safety, and help reduce that threat.

The ability to print off signs and labels to suit specific circumstances is highly useful. A versatile labelling tool with time-saving features such as a print preview could be a valuable asset to the hard-pressed facilities manager, enabling signs and labels to be produced quickly and easily, in a consistent style across the premises.

Such a tool should be able to provide template labels that meet industry regulations and standards, with the capacity to be updated as necessary. It should be able to print a variety of sized labels. A rechargeable handheld device will save expenditure on batteries.

Health and safety in the workplace is more than a set of rules, policies and regulations. A clear strategy, including appropriate training and practical policies, is essential to create a culture of shared responsibility for the wellbeing of employees and anyone else using the premises. Hazard signage is a valuable element in that strategy, not just to highlight specific health and safety issues and reduce avoidable accidents, but as a visible expression of that shared responsibility.

About Sarah OBeirne

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