Visual Safety: Creating Signs & Labels

Facility Safety Label

Good labeling and sign practices are critical to keeping workers, employees, and facility visitors safe. So, how can you ensure your visual communication is the best it can be?

Let’s look at how to either acquire or create high-quality and well-designed labels and signs.

We will concentrate on just those areas where signs and labels can greatly increase the effectiveness of your safety program, help you meet and exceed compliance guidelines and expectations, as well as create an overall safer day-to- day experience for your workers.

To begin with, you will want to decide whether to begin your labeling program with pre-printed labels (usually ordered online) or with custom made labels that you can create yourself on-site, by using a thermal transfer label printer.

Pre-made Signs and Labels

Should you choose to order your labels from an online vendor, you will need to begin identifying what the labels should DO or SAY. For example, do you need a “Danger” label, a “Warning” label, or will just a “Caution” label to get your message or warning across?

Another question to ask yourself is whether type or lettering should be used on its own, or whether an icon or graphic element, portraying the hazard should be used for greater clarity and quicker “readability”.

As you audit your facility and machinery in order to purchase the labels or signage you need, start by making a note of that particular label or sign’s purpose as well as the size you will need for the area it will be placed into, then go online and order them.

A word of caution:

Online orders come with a few disadvantages that you will want to be aware of, if you are ordering for the first time – make sure that you work with a trustworthy vendor who will sell you only the best quality of label and signage supplies and that exactly meet your needs and specifications.

Some of those disadvantages could be:

  • Not seeing the quality of the material until it arrives in the mail
  • Not getting the product that you thought you had ordered
  • The time it takes for the order to be fulfilled and shipped
  • The time it takes to re-order if a mistake was made

If you do find a vendor who appears to be able to sell you a high-quality, long-lasting product, we have provided you with a list of some of the characteristics you will want to see in the product you purchase.

Characteristics of high-quality labels are:

Creating Signs and Labels

  • Long lifespan
  • Indoor/outdoor material
  • Fade, smudge, and smear resistance
  • UV and chemical resistance
  • Strong adhesive
  • Wide temperature range
  • Won’t leave a residue when removed
  • Scuff and wear resistance

If your label vendor cannot offer or guarantee these qualities in the label supplies and products they want to sell you, then you should move on to find another, more reliable vendor.

Printing Your Own Labels

This option is by far, the best as it allows you to be in complete control of every aspect of your labeling and safety campaign.

In most cases, it can be much more versatile as well as cost effective to create your own labels and signs using an in-house thermal label printer. Typically, these come in the form of either a handheld printer (for smaller labeling jobs) or a desktop-style label printer which can handle larger labels and even signage.

Whichever way you choose to go, it is important to know that not all label printers, or label supplies are the same. These variables can have huge impacts on the ease of use of the system and the customization options available to you. The durability of your labels and signs, especially in cold or harsh environments, are also among the factors you will want to consider.

High-quality label printers print via thermal transfer onto vinyl or poly materials, creating a permanent, weatherproof print that is resistant to the elements and wear and tear as well as smudges or UV rays.

Less expensive printers often use paper labels, which do not last nearly as long- but this can sometimes be countered by using a clear “overlaminate” to seal and protect the surface.

Handheld labelers are meant to be portable and extra-simple- so these printers tend to do great for small projects with simple labels, whereas desktop label printers have several benefits, including:

  • Designing your labels on the large screen of a desktop or laptop computer, vs on a small LCD readout
  • The ability to save and quickly recall labels for later use by creating your own custom library
  • Wide variety of specialty supplies
  • Use of custom images, logos, fonts and symbols
  • Full control of label layout (WYSIWYG)
  • AC power rather than batteries

Additional Resources