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The 2021 Safety Communications Landscape

Written by: Guest   |   February 25, 2021

Worker safety, Guest perspective

How 2020 Shaped Product Liability, Workforce Safety and Your Equipment Labeling Warnings

Erin Earley, head of communications, Clarion Safety Systems

There are so many aspects to consider when it comes to a company’s product safety strategy, equipment safety labeling and workplace signage. Without a doubt, designing effective safety labels and signs that address specific company or equipment needs can be a complex task. For example, once you create a system of safety labels for a piece of machinery, they need to periodically be reevaluated considering changes to the standards, new symbols and latest available safety and accident information related to equipment and the feed and grain industries.

A big picture area that comes into play are current trends in the safety communication landscape. There are two prominent changes that stand out from 2020 and likely directly affect your safety communication strategy: the COVID-19 landscape (supply chain and production shifts, for example) and the continued rise of automation and digitalization. Let’s explore some of the ways you can and should be responding to the various components of this landscape for the best safety communication possible.

To begin, it may help to review some of the most important current strategies for your warnings and instructions. Consider following these three core concepts:

  • Use a quality risk assessment process (the foundation of a strong safety program and of a company’s labels/signs/warnings) – performed routinely.
  • Follow the latest versions of the ANSI/ISO standards for labels/warnings.
  • Continuously reevaluate your company’s product safety program (including labels/warnings) in line with equipment and standards updates.

When it comes to current trends from 2020, keep a few things top of mind:

  • Consider the impact of supply chain adjustments on company labels: “Over the past months, a common trend we’ve seen with product manufacturers is the need to reevaluate their supply chains to ensure they’re well-positioned to continue business despite hurdles with the current environment. That includes everything from vendor shutdowns to issues with fulfilling orders,” said Angela Lambert, Clarion Safety’s head of standards compliance. When changes occur to global supply chains and production capabilities, it may, in turn, bring shifts to a company’s product safety strategy, including warnings and instructions. That can range from evaluating the quality and on-time delivery of new vendors, or on a wider level, the actual warnings and instructions used, based on shifts to the company’s audience. “Pay special consideration to their location and any changes from that standpoint,” said Lambert, who is also involved at the leadership level in the development of the ANSI and ISO standards for product safety, including as the chair of ANSI Z535.1 Safety Colors. “Depending on whether your audience is primarily U.S. or internationally-based will help you to decide if your focus is on adhering to the ANSI or ISO product safety label standards.”
  • Plan for your company’s response to automation and digitalization: This is something nearly every industry is facing in varied degrees, the feed and grain industries included – and it has a direct impact on company warnings and instructions. Consider that automation can bring about changes to the equipment itself as well as the way it is being manufactured. Digitalization may include everything from contending with new technologies to the very way that product end users access information. One example is safety manuals and how your company’s strategy for presenting safety information may need to shift in line with physical, print pieces being staged out due to the rise of digital information sharing.

Our world, the feed and grain industries, and our individual businesses will continue to be shaped and evolve this year in light of the pandemic and other factors, like new technologies. One constant, when it comes to safety communication and effective labels and signs, is that thoughtful decisions need to be made about how to warn effectively. That includes continuously reevaluating your safety strategy, performing routine risk assessments and designing your labels and signs to meet identified needs using standards-based best practices. By prioritizing those areas, you’re on the right path to doing everything possible so people can take the steps necessary to avoid harm.

Author Info: Erin Earley, the head of communications at Clarion Safety Systems, shares her company’s passion for safer products and safer workplaces. She’s written extensively about best practices for machinery safety labels and facility safety signs. Clarion Safety is a member of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors, the U.S. ANSI TAG to ISO/TC 145 and the U.S. ANSI TAG to ISO 45001.

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