Do Safety Signs Cause More Harm Than Good?

Do Safety Signs Cause More Harm Than Good?

safety signsSafety slogans and safety signs still seem to be one of the most popular forms of communication in the workplace. Those two search terms bring more traffic to this blog than most others combined? There are many articles on this blog about slogans, signs and semiotics (I’ve listed a few at the bottom of this post or you could try our search box if you have a couple of hours to spare and would like to discover some more).

In response to the article “I’m Just Not That Into Safety Anymore” one of our readers made an interesting comment which prompted this post. He said:

Flexibility and mature judgment is expected in every work place, and adding signs for the safety of the employees does not restrict or control their freedom, it merely promotes a safer and hazard free work place. Even with proper safety signs and warnings, mutual respect and understanding is promoted. Employees are able to understand that signs are in place for their own safety, and their compliance fosters mutual understanding and trust, rather than a feeling of rebellion due to being controlled. If an employee feels the urge to do something that will not comply with a safety guideline, he/she will do so irrespective of it being there in place or not.

This was my response and I know everybody has their own thoughts on this – please share them in the comments section below:

  • Do you put signs and slogans up around your home? Why or why not?
  • Are most signs put in place to transfer liability or to protect people?
  • How do signs and slogans effectively replace other forms of communication?
  • How long are safety signs effective for?
  • How often are safety signs erected but never enforced?
  • Yesterday I saw what must be the world’s biggest safety notice board – I felt completely overwhelmed by it (in a bad way) – how much is too much?
  • How do “warnings” and compliance threats promote mutual respect and positive culture?
  • If recalcitrants will ignore them anyway then why risk offending the people, who do the right thing, with such messages?
  • What are signs saying unconsciously about the people who erect them and the people they are for?
  • I have read studies which suggest that signs which tell us what we can do rather than what we cant are more effective?
  • How many people who design and erect signs know much about the unconscious power of semiotics?

A small sample of relevant safety sign articles on this blog:


Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below