It’s the message that matters: Tip for more effective safety signage

Category: Workplace Safety

I tend to pay a little more attention to visual safety messaging these days. After all, many of our workplace Digital Signage customers at Marlin use our products to raise awareness about all kinds of safety issues. And I’ve grown curious about what works well, and why.

So when most drivers were simply passing a DOT sign promoting National Work Zone Awareness Week, I started watching its impact on behavior.

I was disappointed.

The DOT signs were pretty straightforward. Some said, “Slow Down/Move Over,” referencing laws that require extra precaution as you approach vehicles that are positioned on shoulders. Others actually referenced National Work Zone Awareness Week. In both cases, you would expect that upon encountering such a message, behavior would change at least for a few miles down the road.

It didn’t.

In fact, I personally witnessed some rather scary close calls occurring almost immediately under one of these warning signs. Drivers weren’t slowing down or moving over.

But then something interesting happened later that week.

Once again I was approaching a DOT sign with its “Slow Down/Move Over” message. But this time, several vehicles ahead of me, a truck driver went out of his way to obey the law. He used his blinker well ahead of time, and was moving over despite his need to take the approaching exit.

This obvious example of safe driving was then duplicated by every vehicle that followed. Bingo! The positive effect of safety messaging is magnified when we see others putting it into practice.

Yes, visual communication, as seen on the DOT sign, can and should be used to clearly state safety rules and reminders. But if you really want to hit a home run with your safety messaging, you need to consider human nature. We naturally want to do what our peers are doing.  The more we associate a behavior with one or more respected peer, the more likely we are to duplicate that behavior. We just need to see real examples first.

So how can you use this same technique to address safety issues at your workplace?

You need to find a way to show off workers who are being safe. These ‘safety stars’ provide an opportunity you simply can’t pass up. Snap photos and make videos of how they’re getting it right. Then post them a.s.a.p. to your workplace Digital Signage.

The right Digital Signage partner can help make this a reality. So start supplementing your current safety messaging. Capture those examples and load them up. Get in touch with Marlin to find out how.

Sean Donnelly
May 5, 2016

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