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Learn about the industrial risks and importance of hazard signage at Label Source 

Machinery at work, if defective or if misused, can lead to serious injury or death. Therefore, it is critical that risk assessments are conducted to establish operational standards and procedures, to minimise these risks and to create a safe working environment.

The latest Riddor statistics for Great Britain in 2017-18 reveal that recent accident levels are stubbornly remaining static. Although there has been a reduction from historical levels, this improvement has definitely come to an abrupt halt.

In 2017-18 there were 144 fatalities in the workplace, with the breakdown shown below:

  • Fall from heights (35)
  • Struck by moving vehicles (26)
  • Struck by moving objects (23)
  • Trapped in collapsed structures or overturning (16)
  • Contact with moving machinery (13)
  • Contact with electricity (4)

In addition, there were a further 555,000 non-fatal injuries reported. Therefore, from these figures, it is clear that there should be no grounds for complacency.

Injuries sustained can vary from the extremely serious and debilitating to minor cuts and bruises, such as amputations, spinal, cord damage, impact injuries from crushing, bone fractures, burns and scalds, punch injuries from sharp parts and edges, bone fractures, serious lacerations, entanglement at pinch, nip points, moving belts or conveyors, by clothing, hair, fingers or jewellery, injuries from ejected parts or flying objects.

Employers in the UK have a legal obligation to comply with a wide range of Health and Safety legislation, including The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. These obligations include the need to offer adequate training; satisfactory levels of supervision; relevant safety wear and safety equipment (PPE); the fitting of safety guards; and fully maintained and non-defective machinery.

In the event of an accident, there can be a series of direct and indirect costs from prosecution by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive).

Direct costs can be a combination of the following;

  • Loss of workers time due to the accident
  • Loss of productivity due to machine downtime.
  • Knock on effect of disrupting production further down the line.
  • Overtime costs to make up the shortfall in production.
  • The recruitment of new workers, or the re-training of current staff.
  • Legal costs.
  • Management and executive time.
  • Increase in insurance premiums.
  • Reduction in worker morale leading to loss of productivity.

Indirect costs due to a poor safety record may be difficult in recruiting staff, or the need to pay above the market rate, as well as impacting on the ability to win contracts due to a tarnished reputation.

Installing safety guards and barrier systems to isolate dangerous machinery and keep people at a distance, automatic cut-outs and operating controls to prevent equipment inadvertently being turned on, the issue of eye, ear, head, face, hand, foot or body personal protective equipment, continual training and refresher courses  can help prevent accidents occurring.

At Label Source, we do our bit, in the supply of a range of machine hazard safety signs to create awareness of the risks posed when operating industrial machinery and plant. Among the hazards covered are finger trap, entanglement, crush, pinch points, moving blade and belt, entrapment, hot surfaces and hot liquids. Besides these, we supply many labels and signs to bespoke designs.

Learn how to prevent fibre optic injury at Label Source

The “Digital Age” is reliant on speedy access to data, and lots of it. A key part of the infrastructure network needed to transfer this information is via optical fibre cables.

These cables use light pulses generated by lasers or light emitting diodes (LEDs) to transfer the data to support telecommunications, the internet and cable television. The cables are formed of a glass core, and have distinct advantages over traditional copper wiring. They have a considerably wider bandwidth, their smaller diameter allows more fibres to be fitted in a given cable diameter, and there is no interference between the glass stranded fibres located in the same cable.

Thus, fibre optic cables provided not only a higher quantity of information transfer, but also retained high quality. On the downside, fibre optic cables are much more fragile, and need to be protected from accidental damage. Figuring out how to work with fibre cables is essential for preventing damage to equipment and yourself.

Hazards associated with handling fibre optic cables tend to differ from traditional wiring in some respects, but have many common inherent dangers due to their location. Fibre optic installation standards differ from ordinary cables, so certain risk assessments need to be adhered to.

  • Since no electricity or heat is associated with fibre optics, there is no risk from direct electrocution or burns.
  • However, there may be an indirect risk from both as optic fibres are housed in shared facilities with other conductors.
  • Many of the cables are accessed via manholes, and as confined spaces run the risk of explosive atmospheres, dangers of asphyxiation, and injuries from contact with live equipment, these dangers are associated with handling fibre optic cables. There are fire risks if an electric arc is used, particularly if flammable gases exist.
  • Others are located on poles, where risks can be from live overhead conductors and from falling from heights.
  • Fibre optic cables can cause damage to eyes, particularly if inspected using lenses or microscopes, especially from invisible infra-red light. The danger level is increased further if Class 11 lasers are in operation.
  • Laser danger hazards.
  • Handling fibre optic cables can result in skin injury from glass shards, and the risk increases if these are ingested, which can lead to serious internal organ damage.
  • Chemicals are commonly used to clean or process fibres, and this should only be undertaken in well-ventilated areas.
  • Poor disposal of glass fragment waste could endanger other handlers of the waste.

Good fibre optic cable handling precautions, risk assessments, coupled with staff training can minimise the risks. Fibre optic cables should be checked with a power meter to establish if they are operational. Suitable PPE (personal protective equipment) should be used such as safety glasses with side shields, and disposable aprons. There should be a ban on food and drink in operational areas. Disposal regimes need to be followed rigidly.

Label Source has a range of products to identify and locate fibre cable products, including underground warning and detectable tapes, hazard warning labels and signs (particularly for laser hazards), and cable identifiers.

Unlike most modern inventions, we can track the history of warning signs all the way back to the prehistoric era. Many cave drawings, hieroglyphics and druidic symbols can all be traced back to some sort of warning sign, similar to warning and hazard labels today. While health and safety seems like a modern construct, labelling and signalling dangers has been present in all of human history.

The Romans, for example, were the first to adopt warning signs for roads, using stonework to measure road distances and hazards. Medieval times had them too - tradesmen of all descriptions required stone tablets outside of their businesses in order to qualify for a licence. It turns out warning and caution signs have carried the same meaning since our earliest days, it’s just easier to understand now!  

Warning Signs in the Early Twentieth Century

Warning and hazard signs, though, truly entered the public consciousness with the invention of cars and the increase in transport. As the world began to be interconnected by the modern transport network, the need for easily-recognisable and standardised labels and signs became essential. This standardisation of road signs had a domino effect which changed the warning sign world as a whole.

As the years went on, signs and labels in the UK began to mimic the standardisation and uniformity of roadside signs, given their success in preventing accidents and managing traffic. As the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) matured, more and more acts were passed, pushing a variety of standardised signs and labels into the workplace.

Acts such as the Agriculture (Safety, Health and Welfare Provisions) Act 1956 and Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 lay the foundation for proper labelling and health and safety in agricultural and industrial industries.

The HSE continued work well into the latter half of the twentieth century, with one of the most famous signs, the green fire exit sign, invented in 1980, which speaks volumes about how fast warning signs change, adapt and interweave with popular culture.

Modern Warning and Caution Signs

The set of regulations we follow today are the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals Regulations) 1996. This is to be followed by all European Union member states, entrusting all businesses to have recognisable warning signs and symbols and ensuring signs have the same meanings across each member state. Brexit is set not to affect these in any significant way.

For warning signs, the regulations define the purpose of warning and caution signs as signs used to make people aware of dangers. These signs may need to follow specifications outset by the Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990.

All warning signs, in accordance with the 1996 regulations, must have a black band in a triangular shape and a yellow background. The centre of the sign must be filled with a standardised image of the type of hazard in black.

All of Label Source’s products are in line with these 1996 Safety Signs and Signals Regulations and ISO 1710 specifications. Ensuring your workplace is up to date on safety warnings signs and their meanings is paramount.

We’re sure to have a suitable sign or label in our extensive range of warning signs here at Label Source. “Do as the Romans do” and put warning signs to the forefront.

learn about the potential costs of improper biohazard signs here

Biohazard accidents, spillages and incidents are always PR nightmares. As well as lawsuits and fines, negative public perception following avoidable biohazard spills can negatively impact sales and revenue. Danger signs and biohazard signs are an important step in preventing said incidents, as well as protecting the health and safety of your employees.

For example, there were 100 biohazard safety breaches at high-security UK laboratories in five years (2009-2014), meaning even the most stringent of workplaces can have severe biohazard safety mishaps. One particular incident involving anthrax was directly caused by poor labelling practices.

What Happened at AHVLAS in 2012?

The anthrax incident occurred in 2012 at the AHVLA (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency) in Surrey. As a result of poor labelling and logistics, live anthrax was sent out to other labs in places such as York, Bath and Belfast.

At one AHVLA laboratory, the live sample was opened on a workbench, as no biohazard label was attached (the anthrax was assumed to have been killed by heat, which it wasn’t). Thankfully, everyone was safe, but the fact that a government-led agency could make this mistake sent shockwaves across the health and safety world.

An immediate investigation was called, concluding that the incident was caused by the ‘labelling and tracking of biological materials [being] inadequate’. Poor workplace labelling and management led directly to the possible outbreak of an illness, which would have been catastrophic. If proper danger signs and biohazard signs were used, then it could have saved the government’s blushes.

Improper Signage Pays

No lawsuits were pushed forward for this case, although one lab, the Pirbright Institute, suffered from so many health and safety claims, it had to undergo a £100 million refurbishment to pave over long-term issues.

The poor reputation of AHVLA labs, due to improper biohazard control, came to head with a nine-figure cost, when long-term safe workplace practices and danger sign labelling could have been a cheaper, more proactive option.

In terms of private business, handling biohazard incidents in a lax way can mean massive lawsuits and court costs. It is your responsibility to keep employees and customers safe, so be sure to brush-up on danger signs meanings and usages. To learn danger sign meanings, check out our guide to biohazard signs.

Avoid the Consequences by Utilising Proper Danger Signage

Whether you want to notify passers-by of a biohazard material or safely transport sensitive material, we’re sure to have a suitable sign or label in our extensive range here at Label Source. Do your bit to prevent accident and injury occurring by investing in danger signs for biohazard labelling.