Visual cues don’t replace proper instruction, but floor marking tape, signage, and other visual communication tools can reinforce employee training by issuing reminders and keeping employees alert. Visual communication strategies support employees by making worksite messages and workflow cues easier to understand, and they improve navigation and safety for visitors and employees alike. Here, we explore a few ways visual cues improve worksite safety.
Highlight Changes with Visual Cues
Forming new habits takes time, and signage can provide reminders to help reinforce any new requirements. When workflows, traffic patterns, or methods change, it’s important to use signage, floor markings, and physical barriers to bring attention to the updated processes. These visuals improve facility and worksite safety by creating specific, timely reminders. This is especially helpful in getting attention in situations where employees may have become so used to a routine that the tasks become automatic. Encourage awareness and caution, especially in a changing environment, with floor markings and signage that display location-specific messages and easy-to-understand graphics.
For example, if Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required in an area due to temporary construction or new, permanent rules, posters, signage, and floor tape can issue reminders to wear goggles, masks, gloves, or helmets. Each time an employee sees the signage and puts on their PPE, the reminder and action work toward creating a long-term habit.
Likewise, if a workflow has changed, visual cues can help employees learn the new routine faster than without the cues. Visual communication isn’t the only method used when new procedures are introduced—dedicated training is also required. But, when paired with training, signs and floor tape improve understanding, whether they’ve been working in the facility for nine years, nine months, or nine weeks.
Signage Improves Reaction Time
Visual cues are an important safety tool for communicating required actions and crucial messages. While OSHA and ANSI offer minimum standards regarding where to display clearly marked lines, going beyond the standards to include text and graphics can improve employee reaction time. Text stating required actions or safety messages is easier to understand than colored lines alone. Use floor tape and signage in easy-to-see colors and contrasting text that stands out—when you combine set color cues, graphics, and descriptive text, your message is clear and specific so employees can respond quickly and accordingly.
Pairing dynamic graphics with text can also heighten the sense of urgency: A study from the University of Michigan and Brigham Young University found that drivers’ reaction time was improved if the graphics on the sign showed action—a pedestrian running, rather than walking—which “increased the driver’s perception of risk,” effectively grabbing and holding attention so the driver stopped faster. Eye-tracking software showed that signs depicting action got the driver’s attention earlier than the static signage, and stopping time was improved by an average of 50 milliseconds.
Mark Work Areas for Better Organization
Using visual cues to designate space for tools, machinery, carts, finished product, and scrap helps keep spaces organized. An easy-to-spot sign or floor marking reminds employees where items go when they’re not in use and encourages employees to remove or reduce workspace clutter. When workstations, walkways, and other areas are tidy and organized, safety is improved. For example, keeping walkways clear can reduce slip, trip, and fall injuries, marking exit points reduces clutter so emergency exits are accessible, and labeling pallet placement ensures aisles are wide enough for vehicles to pass, preventing damage or injury from bumped, dragged, or knocked-over items.
Organized workspaces are more productive workspaces. When everything has a designated space, it’s easier to see at a glance which tools and machines are in use. Use signage to label reserved areas for forklifts and tools, and require employees to replace items in the designated spaces when they are finished. Encourage decision-making and employee autonomy with signage and workflows that allow employees to move to another available option if a necessary tool or machine is in use.
Visual Cues Increase Productivity—Without Rushing
Visuals are often easier to understand than auditory or written directions—especially at a glance—and when paired with graphics can present more complex instructions in a simple way. Communication improves efficiency and productivity; with clear visual instructions, employees are less likely to rush, so the task at hand is the focus. Clearly marked steps and instructions remind staff of proper procedures, without the need to seek out guidance, so there are fewer mistakes—and fewer wasted materials.
When steps and requirements are laid out visually, they’re often easier to remember than spoken instructions or training text alone. Flow charts and graphs are popular managerial planning tools; transfer these visual communication strategies to the warehouse, manufacturing floor, or other industrial workspaces to help employees find solutions, make decisions, and work safely and more efficiently.
Promote a Company-Wide Culture of Safety
Visual cues can help promote a company-wide safety culture in a variety of ways. When messaging reminds employees that their safety is a priority for more than just audit scores, employees are more likely to comply with the requirements. If training, floor markings, and signage provide details as to why a specific rule is in place, employees feel more confident in following that rule. Signage can be used to display reasons for requirements, as well as recognition for a job well done. Highlighting how long a department has remained accident-free celebrates the hard work and dedication employees have put in to ensure everyone’s health and safety. To improve safety, create a culture of safety within your facility.
Visual Cues Should Help, Not Distract
For clear signage and floor tape messaging, follow set color standards—including OSHA and ANSI guidelines for colors used to highlight fire, hazards, and warnings, as well as specific standards designated for the individual facility—to prevent confusion. Clearly define what each color means in terms of visual communication: If blue is mainly used for low-priority messaging, don’t also use it to warn of low-hanging electrical wires.
Similarly, don’t use too many visuals in one location: Employees may have a difficult time deciphering which items need immediate attention and which are superfluous. Rank your signs and floor markings to determine which are top-priority messages—health and safety messages, forklift crossing, or PPE notices, for example—and filter out any that may not be as important in the specific location, such as a directional cue if the pathway is clear and easy to navigate. Too many signs and floor markings can overwhelm, making it more difficult to make decisions quickly.
Visual communication tools such as floor marking tape and signs help improve worksite safety by calling attention to hazards, offering reminders that inform safe practices, and reducing accident-causing clutter. Explore our Resource Center for additional ways to improve employee safety in industrial facilities.