Last week I attended the Association of Equipment Manufacturers annual Product Safety & Compliance Seminar. I've attended this seminar for the past seven years and the debate still rages - text versus no text safety labels.
It seems that both corners are still firmly entrenched. Most people/companies are either adamantly for pictorial-only or against it. Some larger manufacturers are going to pictorial-only due to exporting their products worldwide. It would simply be too much to translate safety labels into every language and dialect. Along with this, a 2003 study revealed that nearly 1 in 7 could not read this blog. (See statistics from the research here.)
Both sides make good points:
For Pictorial Only:
- A well designed pictorial can be recognized by the non-native speaking population or the illiterate
- Pictorial-only take up less space
- Pictorial-only can be used worldwide
Against Pictorial Only:
- Some items or hazards cannot be adequately described with a pictorial
- If the ANSI Z535 standards are the gold standard for North America, why would you use pictorial instead of text?
- Some pictorials are too generic
European nations lead the way with the use of pictorials (example above right). Pictorials are used in common, everyday life for things like traffic signs and subways.
However, pictorials in the US are much like the long awaited metric system. I can remember being told in third grade (many moons ago) that the metric system would take the place of imperial system. When or if pictorials take the place of text in the US is still of debate.
In the end, nothing will replace a well thought out and consistent means of warning users of potential hazards whether that be with pictorials or text.