Raising awareness of health and safety hazards is a necessary requirement for workplaces around the world. In 2012, around 2.5 million people in the EU had a non-fatal accident that resulted in at least four days of absence from work. With this statistic in mind, how can employers take steps to ensure avoidable accidents are prevented?
Who is responsible for health and safety?
The European Union Information Agency for Occupational Safety and Health (EU-OSHA) is responsible for setting out the minimum requirements for workplace health and safety within the EU. The agency produces directives relating to equipment, signage, personal protective equipment, chemical agents, ergonomic requirements and workload, among others.
It is the duty of employers in the EU to follow these directives and protect their employees by sufficiently assessing all potential risks that could cause harm. These risks must be communicated to employees with clear instructions and training on how to deal with hazards, as the success of health and safety measures relies on the diligence of staff.
Effectively communicating health and safety hazards
There is a range of materials available to employers to help them raise awareness of hazards but signage is often the most popular choice. The four types of health and safety signboards are prohibition signs; warning signs; mandatory signs and emergency escape or first aid signs. These signs should warn of any health and safety risk that has been identified by the EU-OSHA.
Employers must follow several guidelines when displaying health and safety signs in the workplace. Firstly signs should be large, clear enough to understand and when describing a particular piece of equipment, clearly show the location of that equipment. All signs must be permanent fixtures unless the hazard or workplace is temporary. Employers should also avoid placing too many signs close together as this will reduce how well they can be seen and understood.
Use of pictograms on signs should be kept as simple as possible and contain only necessary detail so they don’t affect or confuse the message the sign is meant to convey. Employers must also take responsibility to ensure that all signs are properly maintained so they are capable of performing the function they are intended for.
There are a number of signage options available on the market, but often it’s mandatory to purchase packs of signs costing up to €100 per pack containing products that may not be required. To date, it has been difficult to create bespoke signage which meets all of the requirements set out by the EU-OSHA.
A new option from Rexel is the SignMaker, an all in one solution with printable templates available online that allows employers to easily create signs for use in the workplace for half the cost of pre-made signs. Users can select their desired sign and customise it to their own requirements.
Personnel Today recently published data that pointed towards a significant gap between workplace policies and what staff actually know about health and safety. This means that educating and installing the correct signage which clearly communicates the dangers and hazards at work is more important than ever.