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Visual cues—especially those that pair graphics and text—are beneficial as part of an industrial facility’s safety and training programs. This form of communication is easy to recognize and decipher at a glance, so people can make appropriate choices and decide on the best next steps. To use visual communication methods for a safety training program, first assess the needs and objectives within your facility. Then, consider these options for pairing a visual communication strategy and targeted training to create a facility-wide safety culture.

How Floor Marking Tape and Visual Cues Aid in Training

Visual management systems are part of our everyday interactions: A traffic light that signals red for stop and green for go, a “do not enter” or “authorized personnel only” door sign, or crosswalk lines in a parking area are all examples of visual controls. These common cues help improve safety on a daily basis as the meaning is easily recognized at a glance.

Visual cues are useful for:

  • New employee training
  • When methods are updated
  • Annually as part of a safety refresh program
  • In response to an audit
  • To mitigate habits that may become hazardous
  • Preparation and training for staff promotion
  • Cross-training opportunities

Visual cues are continually important, not simply when addressing a worksite issue. Choose cues that align with specific goals. To reduce wasted materials, skill, or labor, the Lean Methodology may be the option you need to improve overall communication and organization. If you’re responding to ongoing safety issues, a consultation or audit service may be required to choose the appropriate next steps. For facility-wide updates, a continuous improvement method such as 5S or Kaizen will provide a framework for planning, implementation, and training.

Visual Cues With Text are Easier to Interpret

Color-coded floor marking tape—with or without graphics that illustrate a required task—provides instructions at a glance. Pairing these specific visual cues with text can improve reaction time, which is important when facility safety is involved.

Staff may be better able to remember the requirements as visual cues help create associations that build long-lasting habits over time. This is an important factor in terms of training new employees—visual instructions keep the requirements top-of-mind—but, also when updating a process. If a traffic pattern has changed, signage, floor marking tape, and physical barriers act as reminders of the update. When implementing a routine or developing a new method of production, clear visuals provide relevant information and updated instructions to facilitate the adjustment.

Clear Instructions Increase Safety

Ambiguity in directions can contribute to accidents, damage, and injury. Lean and 5S supplies focus on clear messaging to provide enough relevant information that—when paired with ongoing training and continuous improvement methods—can reduce waste, improve safety, and encourage employee autonomy.

When instructions are readily available and easy to understand, you may note an increase in compliance and an improvement in quality. Specificity in instructions also removes the risk of employees guessing or taking shortcuts, which can both lead to mistakes or create hazards.

Worksite instructions include:

  • Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) cues, such as Lean/5S instructions, that offer clear prompts or clarify the steps in required processes
  • OSHA-required and site-specific reminders, including pinch point and machine hazards or other physical hazards
  • Parking lot and loading dock lanes, directional cues, and safety notices
  • Markings to identify tool storage or vehicle parking spaces for better organization for safety
  • Crosswalks, physical barriers, clear signage, and required audible signals (sounding horn, back-up alarm) to improve pedestrian safety
  • Glow-in-the-dark floor marking tape to provide visual cues in the event of power failure or for better visibility in dim areas
  • Reflective tape creates highly visible signals in various lighting conditions, making vehicles and loading docks easier to spot—which is beneficial for both new employees and long-term staff

Standardization Improves Compliance

The Poka-Yoke method, also called “mistake-proofing,” is a technique that uses both visual cues and forced behavior to avoid human error and ensure the intended results. For example, a door that only opens from one direction forces a specific behavior—the area may not be accessed by an unauthorized individual. However, without a visual cue to inform the person that the door may not be accessed, there will be confusion. In this case, a sign that states “No Unauthorized Access” and includes a graphic—for example, a hand or the universal circle-slash “no” symbol—provides the necessary context.

While Poka-Yoke isn’t the only solution, standardization is necessary to reduce errors, no matter the method or facility. 

Simplify For Clarity

When implementing visual controls, consider what information is important to employees—as well as which questions are common within the facility, which allows you to communicate necessary information before someone needs to ask. The caveat: Too many visual controls may be confusing or detract from the most important details. Implement controls that improve safety and compliance, choose the simplest options that provide the most value, and pair training and visual cues so employees are more likely to follow the cues.

When standardizing in-house messaging, consider the methods of training used. If your facility hires outside consultants or requires employees to carry a specific certification, the visual cues you implement must match the training and should be current. Conform to ANSI- or OSHA-mandated warnings, cues, or color standards.

Visual management systems, such as Lean/5S Methodology or other techniques, work together with training to create safer work environments. New hires and existing employees rely on clear signage and cues, so create systems that work within your facility and adjust as needed through a continuous improvement process. Explore our Resource Center for more tips for visual communication for safety.