ANSI Compliant Signs and Labels

A Good Sign? (Part 2)

In ANSI, Signs and Labels on 17 March 2009 at 12:45 pm

Not quite ANSI compliant... yet.

Last time we talked about choosing the appropriate header for our safety signs and labels. The above sign is still not ANSI compliant, but it’s certainly better than the sign we started with.

Today, we’ll look at how the wording of our message can dramatically increase comprehension.

Proper message wording is crucial. It is one of the most important parts of any sign and it may also be the part most often neglected. Even some of the major sign manufacturers offer signs with poorly worded messages. This step becomes even more important if you are designing and printing your own signs. In fact, take a second to re-read the message on the sign we’re working with (if you haven’t already).

HAZARDOUS VAPORS
YOU CAN EXPERIENCE INTERNAL BLEEDING OR INFERTILITY DUE TO PROLONGED EXPOSURE TO VAPORS. VAPORS CAN ALSO BE DEADLY.
DO NOT ENTER

You may not have realized it before, but this sign has a lot of room for improvement. To tell the truth, it’s driving me a little crazy. Let’s fix it one step at a time.

First, we must decide on our primary message. Information on a safety sign should be arranged to provide the most important information first (ANSI Z535.2-2007 B3.2). Especially in the case of hazardous vapors, where reaction time is a serious issue, “DO NOT ENTER” should be the focus of this sign. But, we can take that even one step further.

As an action statement, “DO NOT ENTER” is actually fairly poor. We are all so used to seeing it that you may not have ever thought about it, but it is a negative statement. Rather than telling the reader what not to do, let’s give them specific direction. Instead, we’ll say: “KEEP OUT!”

Of course, it’s important to identify the type of hazard, so we won’t eliminate “HAZARDOUS VAPORS.” Instead, we will move it directly below the action statement.

Now for the fun part. The entire consequence statement is terribly worded. Safety signs should always be easy to read and easy to comprehend. The first thing we want to do is dramatically shorten the statement. We can remove “YOU” because it is implied. We can also remove the prepositional phrase “DUE TO,” which adds confusion. There is no reason we can’t combine both sentences into a single statement. And we can re-write the entire message so it is “headline style” like a newspaper… Now we have:

KEEP OUT!
HAZARDOUS VAPORS
EXPOSURE MAY CAUSE INTERNAL BLEEDING, INFERTILITY, OR DEATH.

That’s better! But there is one critical change that will make this message much easier to read. You may have already figured it out:

Keep Out!
Hazardous vapors
Exposure may cause internal bleeding, infertility, or death.

Compare those two statements and you will instantly recognize how much easier the second is to read. Writing messages in sentence case (rather than ALL CAPS) is the most often ignored direction from the ANSI standard. Our brains are hard-wired to read words with a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters. Writing in ALL CAPS lowers comprehension and increases reading time (which is dangerous).

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at our sign:

A much better sign, but still not completely ANSI compliant.

Still not perfect, but much, much better. Next time, we’ll look at how design and layout will make this a much more effective sign.

Click here for Part 1

For more information on creating OSHA compliant signs, please see this Best Practices Guide offered by Graphic Products, Inc. (click here)

Advertisements
  1. […] Click here for Part 1 Click here for Part 2 […]

  2. […] here for Part 1 Click here for Part 2 Click here for Part […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: