In the previous article we discussed the organizations that set the standards for safety decals. As a recap ANSI Z535 covers the United States and ISO covers Europe. Now we will dig into how to properly layout and format your safety decal.
While pictorials provide an important visual component of the hazard, the verbiage included on the safety decal provides more finite detail around the hazard, hazard avoidance and consequences. At this point in the decal development process, a manufacturer has been provided the initial verbiage needed for the decal – signal words NOTICE, CAUTION, WARNING or DANGER. The next step is to put the identified hazard into words and describe how to avoid the hazard.
For example purposes, let’s say that this particular piece of equipment could present a burn hazard. The decal would display the signal word “CAUTION” with the identification of the hazard reading, “BURN HAZARD!” CAUTION is used in this instance because the hazard may result in a minor or moderate injury. WARNING wouldn’t be used because death would be unlikely. Following would be avoidance text: “Keep clear of hot surface.” This text informs the end-user of the step(s) necessary to avoid the hazard.
The remaining verbiage is a description of the consequences of not avoiding the hazard. In our example, the text would read, “Failure to comply may result in minor or moderate injury.” All of this verbiage would be coupled with pictorials illustrating the burn hazard and the avoidance action.
To develop effective verbiage for safety decals, wording should be succinct and use a headline-style format. Designers should avoid using excessive, unnecessary words (e.g., “the”) while presenting the text in upper and lower case letters. Upper and lower case letters are approximately 30% easier to read than all upper case. However, it is acceptable to use all upper case letters in short phrases requiring impact, like BURN HAZARD.
Next is determining the appropriate font size and the space available on the decal. Manufacturers need to determine the proper distance to view the safety decal and avoid the hazard. ANSI has a font size guideline that can be referenced for this purpose.
Layout and Consistency
Decals can be laid out in either a vertical or horizontal format. Both formats are acceptable design layouts and can be determined by a manufacturer’s corporate standards, the area where the decal will go or personal preference.
Overall design consistency should be maintained. Through decal design consistency, manufacturers will help ensure the recognition of hazard and avoidance pictorials by using the same pictorials outlined in ANSI and ISO stylebooks. It also ensures that a consistent message is delivered across entire product lines and between different products. AEM (The Association of Equipment Manufacturers) offers a helpful tool to find pictorials. It can be found at http://www.aem.org/SRT/Safety/PictorialDatabase/
It is also a good practice to keep layout styles consistent across different decals. Generally, manufacturers want to keep the signal word panel, the pictorials and the verbiage in the same location when possible. This will allow end-users to recognize safety messages quickly.
Final Decal Design and Production
Once all of the elements are in place, take a final look at the safety decal to make sure the artwork is clean and that the decal accurately describes the hazard and avoidance steps. It is encouraged to validate the comprehension of safety decals – for example, gather a group of individuals to critique the decal on symbol recognition and wording. Generally, it’s a good idea to find individuals that are somewhat familiar with the equipment. They can be co-workers such as administrative personnel. They will have some familiarity with the product even though they don’t use it on a daily basis.
During this, it is important for manufacturers to remember that safety decals are not the “end-all be-all” for hazard identification. The decals are to remind the users of what they should have reviewed in the Operators Manual or learned during product training. It is always the responsibility of the user to read the manual and attain training before operating any piece of equipment.
After the decal passes testing, work with a proven decal supplier to produce the finished product, making certain to provide size requirements and any special instructions. In addition, while there are no set standards for the type of material on which the decal should be printed, there are special conditions that should be considered. It is recommended to inform the supplier if the decal will be exposed to extreme conditions, such as abrasion, constant sunlight or chemicals.
All of these factors will play a role in determining which adhesive, base material and over-laminate (if applicable) are best to use. Another item to be addressed with the supplier is the surface to which the decal is being applied:
- Is it curved or flat?
- Is the surface powder coated or enamel paint?
- Does it have a smooth or rough texture?
A good supplier is willing to work with the manufacturer throughout the entire decal development process, offering full design capabilities, thorough knowledge or materials, translation services and a thorough knowledge of industry standards and compliance requirements.