The Visual Workplace

Visual learning has been touted for years as one of the most effective ways that humans can learn things and, more importantly, retain the things they learn.

And while it is true that visual learning abilities are not something that everyone has been gifted with, it is also true that a big, bold safety sign, pointing out imminent or possible danger, is something that even non-visual learners can associate with and understand quickly and easily.

That is why visual management and creating the visual workplace can be so effective in the world of safety – it influences and helps everyone – even those who possibly speak a language other than English (if the facility is U.S.-based).

The visual communication that we are speaking of here is usually one of a very ‘localized’ nature. That is, the placement of warning signs, way finding signs etc., right where it is needed (on location), when it is needed.

One of the first steps a safety manager should undertake is to localize and identify all critical or possible danger points within the facility, including in and around machinery. Traffic flow (both human and machine), entry and exit points, squeeze or pinch points, and areas where dangerous caustic, gaseous, or fluid substances are stored or managed should also be clearly identified and posted with safety signs and labels.

During the same facility safety audit, notes should be made of all shelving, drawers and other storage areas which are not currently labeled but could be, helping to create more order and efficiency for workers using that area or those assets.

This includes bins where parts or inventory are stored, tool drawers, accessory drawers, stocking shelves and more. Anywhere that tools or needed items are stored and eventually go missing because of not being returned properly or misplaced, is a candidate for this type of labeling.

The iconic and graphic nature of visual signage is something that transcends language, as the use of illustrative icons and color can be very direct and easy to understand.  

While it is true that warning and caution signs in your native language can be read and understood quickly, many of the elements of that same signage are also very global in nature-such as a stop sign-and are thus understood in large part without actually having to “read” the sign. This is a great advantage for those facilities employing migrant or foreign-speaking workers.

If you are aiming to have a visual management system, other forms to be aware of include floor tape, floor signs and floor shapes, and tags.

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