Beyond the cubicle: Which signs are necessary for the office?

A corporate office might not be the place for hazmat signs or other industrial warnings, but that doesn't mean workplace safety shouldn't be the top priority. Though the typical office might lack heavy machinery, metal tools and falling object hazards, other obstacles can still prove dangerous and require safety signs in the name of accident prevention. Here are a few areas managers should remember when considering which signs to mount and where:

Always mark the fire escape
Perhaps no safety signs are more important than the fire exit and fire extinguisher signs. In the event of a fire, employees must know two things immediately:

  • Where is the nearest exit?
  • Where is the nearest fire extinguisher?

Prominent signs can make these items much easier to find. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets clear guidelines on how and where to place fire extinguisher signs properly.

Tripping hazards are still common
As with any construction site, factory or other industrial space, tripping and falling is the No. 1 workplace hazard in the office, too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency found that office workers are 2 to 2.5 times more likely to suffer an injury from tripping and falling than non-office workers. These injuries come from unmarked hazards like wires or wet floors, open desk drawers, standing on rolling chairs and other avoidable circumstances. The use of proper signage can go a long way in preventing these accidents, but workers must also be trained and instructed on safe behaviors in the office.

Simple signs are the best way to tell employees where to go in the event of a fire.
Simple signs are the best way to tell employees where to go in the event of a fire.

No smoking signs make a more comfortable space
Nowadays, no smoking signs are everywhere. In most states, it is illegal to smoke inside the workplace, though each state has its own guidelines and laws. Let employees know where they are allowed to smoke and where they must put out their cigarettes. It might also be useful to remind employees not to ash or throw cigarettes in wastebaskets, as unextinguished embers can start fires and cause emergencies.

Bilingual signs help communicate to everyone
In all of the aforementioned situations and any others, bilingual signs can make things much easier for employees whose first language is something other than English. Although they might be perfectly fluent, emergencies are no time to test out linguistic ability. Accident prevention requires employers to communicate to their staff quickly and effectively. That means any office with a high number of Spanish speakers or any other language should consider outfitting their facility to bilingual signs.

Electrical safety is a priority
Though the office might not be a likely candidate for an arc flash or some other catastrophic electrical failure, there are still plenty of wires, cords and electronics to justify electrical safety signs. Light fixtures are exceedingly common and workers may forget to practice safety protocol when tasked with changing out a light bulb. There are other concerns – the break room is full of appliances, while most computers are plugged into surge protectors with multiple plugs. Anyplace where employees may be tempted into unsafe practices should contain clear signs to remind them of the proper safety.

Don't let your guard down just because the office seems like an unlikely candidate for a workplace accident – put up the right signs and avoid causing an injury due to an avoidable mistake.