he Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created to oversee workplace safety by publishing rules and guidelines. These standards force compliance by companies, requiring them to live up to standards and train employees to meet them.
Most of the standards were created before today’s technology existed. OSHA continues to review new technology that can provide even greater operational and safety visibility. While this is an ongoing process, many technologies are already in the marketplace that comply with OSHA regulations and enhances worker safety.
OSHA Standards for Safety Signs
OSHA regulations require signage to prevent accidents, including the use of signs or symbols to indicate specific hazards. Any new signs or replacements of old signs need to comply with the regulations.
Danger Signs should have no variation in either the type or design of any signs posted to warn of specific dangers. Employees should be trained and instructed that danger signs indicate immediate danger and that special precautions are needed. Red, black, and white should be used with specific guidelines on the use of color.
Caution Signs should be used in any areas that indicate a potential hazard where proper precautions should be implemented. Caution signs should have yellow backgrounds with black letters for high contrast used in conjunction with guidelines.
Slow Moving Vehicle Emblems are required to be a fluorescent yellow-orange triable with a dark red reflective border, highly visible for daylight exposure.
OSHA also requires written words, such as “Stop” or “High Voltage” or a corresponding pictograph showing an easily identified warning.
Virtual Signs vs Physical Safety Signs
Signs can be physical or virtual as long as they meet OSHA requirements and provide adequate warnings about potential hazards.
Laserglow technologies™ SafetyCast virtual sign projections are an ideal way to display bright floor or wall safety signs. These virtual signs work well in nearly all lighting conditions. Easy to mount and adjust, there is virtually no maintenance.
Unlike physical signs that are subject to wear and tear from equipment or foot traffic, the signs are highly durable. They are also cost-effective because it eliminates the need to repurchase new signs or repaint. If safety signs need to be adjusted due to workflow, you can switch out the image projection lens to project new signage instantly instead of having to buy new signs or repaint areas. Virtual signs eliminate downtime while new signs are installed or painted.
SafetyCast virtual sign projections can also use motion sensors, beam break sensors, or push buttons to trigger signage.
OSHA Standards for Line Demarcation
OSHA regulations define color codes for marking physical hazards. Color marking is meant to be universal to make it easier for workers to immediately identify potential hazards.
Similar to a stoplight, yellow indicates areas where caution is needed and for marking physical hazards, including areas where workers may be at risk for:
Stumbling or tripping
“Caught in between”
Red means stop. Buttons, bars, switches, and anything else used to emergency stopping for machinery is designated by OSHA to be red for rapid identification.
Virtual Laser/LED Lines vs Painted/Taped Lines
Painted and taped lines are also vulnerable to wear and tear. In some cases, taped lines that come up from the surface can even be safety hazards themselves. Replacing taped or painted lines also require additional expense and downtime to repair.
By comparison, using Laserglow Technologiesâ€™ VirtualLine Walkways and Line Lasers creates a way to mark your floors that wonâ€™t wear. Plug and play laser line striping and virtual walkway projection systems are lightweight units that are easy to set up and require minimal maintenance.
Because of their dynamic projection, these lines and walkways attract more attention which can overcome complacency. Like virtual sign projections, virtual lines and walkways can also use motion sensors, beam break sensors, or push buttons to trigger signage.
Proximity Detection Technology
Collisions are one of the biggest hazards on job sites. Whether on construction sites or in the warehouse, operators must be able to navigate job sites safely.
Each year in the US there are approximately 100 fatalities and 90,000 serious injuries resulting from accidents. Almost 80% of these accidents involve a pedestrian. Besides injuries to workers, the average cost from a forklift accident exceeds $180,000 in medical expenses, legal liability, lost productivity, and OSHA compliance costs.
Smart Proximity Detection Systems
A smart proximity detection system (SPDS) uses Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) RF wireless frequencies to accurately measure distances between vehicles and workers or other vehicles. When distances between objects are violated, collision warning alarms result. Laserglow Technologies has several solutions that work together:
Vehicle-mounted devices that monitor hazard and danger zones around moving vehicles
Active wearable tags to warn pedestrians of potential hazards with audible or vibration alarms
Fixed-site devices to monitor high-traffic aisles, intersections, blind spots, or accident-prone areas
SPDS systems from LaserGlow are highly accurate and can detect multiple vehicles and/or pedestrians simultaneously. Devices can be fitted to new forklifts or retrofitted to existing fleets. They are easy to install (no registration or calibration needed) to work right out of the box and provide simply customization.
Smart proximity detection system devices have bilateral alarms (acoustic or vibration) and users can configure detection and warning zones, including different alert zones for vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to pedestrian interactions.
Protect Your Business and Your Employees
Liberty Mutual estimates that employers paid out more than $1 billion every week for direct workers comp costs for non-fatal, but disabling, injuries. According to the National Safety Council, work-related deaths and injuries total more than $151 billion in direct costs each year.
“Employers that implement effective safety and health management systems may expect to significantly reduce injuries and illnesses and reduce the costs associated with these injuries and illnesses, including workersâ€™ compensation payments, medical expenses, and lost productivity.” – OSHA
Signs that use LED and laser light may help raise hazard awareness and combat complacency
In May 2013, a worker in a meatpacking plant in Ontario was operating a forklift when he collided with material being moved by a co-worker. The worker suffered a broken ankle. Four years later, the company, Concord Premium Meats, was found guilty of violating the provinceâ€™s Industrial Establishments Regulation and fined $55,000. Among the violations was the failure â€œto ensure barriers, warning signs or other safeguards for the protection of all workers were used where vehicle or pedestrian traffic may endanger the safety of any worker.â€
Safety signs are an essential feature of industrial work sites, where workers are in constant proximity with heavy machinery and vehicles. Traditionally, safety warnings and directives have been communicated to workers by painted or adhesive signage on floors and walls. In the last few years, new light technologies have led to a completely different kind of signage. Projected images may be set to replace conventional, fixed signage.
â€œWe have the ability to change and create any kind of signage,â€ says Atul Garg, vice-president of operations at Toronto-based Laserglow Technologies. â€œAny kind of signage there is in the industrial space, we can create those using our projector-based technology.â€
In a basic setup, a projector â€” mounted overhead on a beam in the ceiling â€” projects an image down onto the floor. Projectors consist of three main elements: the projector body, image template and lens angle.
Projectors today tend to be highly durable. According to an international enclosure rating system, most are rated IP65, indicating the units are sealed off from dust and dirt and are protected against water projected from a nozzle â€” a hazard in food-processing sites.
The image template determines the image to be displayed on the floor. Similar to a photographic slide, it can be changed out for another image when needed; for example, if the layout of the warehouse changes. Signs can range from standard warnings, such as â€œSlowâ€ or â€œFire Extinguisher,â€ to more customized messages, such as â€œSafety Shoes Requiredâ€ or â€œEye Protection Area.â€ The template is often called a gobo, or â€œgo before optic.â€
The lens angle goes in front of the image template and allows the user to focus the image on the surface where the image is to appear. Different types of angle lenses can be put on the projector to increase or decrease the size of the projection.
Projected signage systems are intended to be plug-and-play, so generally no training is needed to handle them. A maintenance worker or person with basic electrical knowledge should be able to install and operate the system.
The use of projected safety signage, made possible by the development of the 300-watt LED projector, began about four years ago and has greatly accelerated in the last two to three years. There are two different projected systems: one based on LED technology (light-emitting diodes); the other on laser light. Recent advances in light technology have made it possible to produce bright, colourful, clear and crisp imagery onto a factory floor, says Mark Wray, CEO of Old Hickory, Tenn.-based LTBLtech.
“And the image doesn’t degrade. No matter what is on that floor, no matter the condition of the floor, no matter how much transportation goes across that image, the quality of that image will remain exactly the same from the time it is deployed until the light engine dies â€” and depending on the harshness of the environment, that light engine can survive anywhere from 14,000 hours up to 40,000 hours” he says.
Most often, projected signage is used to display traffic control signage on walls and floors in high-traffic areas. Typically, these signs have warnings such as â€œStop,â€ â€œYieldâ€ and â€œDanger Forklift Traffic.â€
â€œThe most common problem in these areas is forklift traffic and pedestrian traffic. There are many accidents there â€” where the forklifts donâ€™t see the pedestrians and run into them or the pedestrians walk into these aisles where the forklifts are supposed to be driving,â€ says Uli Theissen, CEO and owner at Scotts Valley, Calif.-based GoboSource Projection Systems.
Safety managers can also use projected signage to replace painted or taped pedestrian-safe aisles, using either projected LED or laser light. Overhead projectors casting bright LED light can be set up to create two thick, coloured lines along the floor. Projectors can also be used to create the familiar, solid-colour or striped walkway. For long walkways, more than one projector is needed.
Alternatively, high-intensity lasers can be used to produce virtual lines along floors and other surfaces to demarcate pedestrian lanes and other zones, such as staging areas where pallets or equipment are supposed to go. By installing two overhead lasers that project parallel lines or stripes along the floor, a manager can create a safe lane or walkway. If the lane is beside a wall, only one overhead laser may be needed to create the lane. Virtual laser lines are also used to create lanes to guide truck drivers into warehouses, helping them stay in their designated lanes and away from pedestrians.
â€œThe lasers are very efficient; they can generate a very long line with a single laser,â€ Theissen says. â€œThe lasers used in these environments are classified as laser class 3R, so they are absolutely eye safe. You can look into the laser beam without any problem.â€
Projected signage can be used on overhead cranes. The projector casts coloured lines or spots onto the floor below to warn of a suspended overhead load. Projectors can also be mounted on forklifts where they project lines, spots, arrows or warning signs to indicate the vehicleâ€™s approach. This application is suited to areas where alarms are difficult to hear.
While projected signage works best in indoor environments, it can be used outside, too. The challenge is that when light technology goes outdoors, it usually becomes invisible in sunlight. To be visible on bright days, the power of the projected light must be very high, and with lasers, that light intensity would need to be so high that the laser would no longer be eye safe.
However, there are products used outside. For example, a projected laser-line system developed by LTBLtech that creates pathways for docking trucks projects laser lines and safety signage inside and outside. It was designed for use in northern workplaces, where snow and ice often obscure outdoor lines. The green and red lines are visible only when there is no bright sun.
One of the main advantages of projected signage is that, unlike paint and stickers, the signs donâ€™t wear off. As a result, companies are saved the cost, effort and downtime required by constant replacement, Garg says.
â€œStickers and paint wear quickly and need to be constantly replaced. In high-traffic environments, that can be as often as every three weeks to every six weeks. To replace stickers, you have to cordon off an area and close operations. If youâ€™re painting, you have to cure the surface, strip the old paint, lay the new one, let it dry. So, thereâ€™s lost time and productivity,â€ he says. â€œWith projected signage, the projector is mounted overhead. No wear and tear can ever happen because thereâ€™s nothing on the floor.â€
The safety advantage of projected signs, Garg adds, is that they are more effective at drawing attention to workplace hazards than fixed signs, which become part of the landscape and are soon ignored. Bright colours make projected signs highly visible. The use of motion sensors can also help alert workers to the signage.
Motion sensors, beam break sensors or push buttons can be used to trigger projectors to begin displaying a sign or start flashing a normally steady sign. For example, a motion sensor may detect a forklift approaching a walkway and will prompt warning signs to appear on the floor in front of any pedestrians who may be on the walkway. A sensor may detect a person opening a door and instantly project a safety image onto the floor.
â€œThe biggest advantage of projected signs over stickers is their dynamic nature. In this technological age, people donâ€™t pay attention to signs around them. People are always on their phones. Complacency happens to all workers,â€ Garg says. â€œWhen motion is detected, [a manager] can have the signage come on and flash at a certain rate. All of a sudden, there is a change in the environment; the human eye picks up that change and you are made more aware of a potential hazard in the workplace.â€
Projected signage can be used in most environments, but it is particularly useful in high-traffic areas, where paint and adhesive signs wear off and damage quickly; in safety-critical areas, where signs must be visible; in dark areas, where paint is hard to see but light is very visible; and in dusty, dirty or wet areas, where painted and taped signage deteriorates fast.
“The most common industries currently buying [projected signs] are in the automotive sector, the steel and lumber industries and the food processing industry,” Garg says. “But any place that has a sign can use a virtual sign.”
While she thinks projected signage is in some ways a great concept, Julie Tilley, safety professional at Calgarybased Workforce Compliance Safety, says constantly changing signage is more likely to decrease workersâ€™ adherence to safety messages.
â€œIn industrial settings, consistency is the key. Someone who sees a stop sign somewhere every day of their life is going to stop. If they just see it once in a while, they may not,â€ she says. â€œIf you drive and every day you see a stop sign somewhere and you know you have to stop, then whether the sign is covered in snow or someone has knocked it down youâ€™re still going to stop. Itâ€™s a habit, and you know itâ€™s the right thing to do.â€
Moreover, Tilley adds, there is a risk of workers coming to rely on a suddenly appearing image to warn them of a serious hazard. Yet, unlike fixed signage, the need of a power source makes the system vulnerable to problems, and there may be technical failures, such as a projector or sensor malfunctioning. A preferable solution may be combining the fixed sign, which workers are always required to observe, with a projected sign that comes on flashing when a hazard is imminent.
Concerning maintenance, she says the life of fixed painted signs can be greatly extended by the use of durable, industrial paint. For example, highgloss alkyds and epoxy paints are estimated to last three to five years. Applying a sealant over the paint can also make signage last longer.
In relation to painted or taped signage, which requires frequent maintenance, projected technology makes for cost-effective signage, Theissen says. In high-traffic areas, the one-time cost of projected signage ranges from $500 to $6,000, while paint or adhesive signage can cost $1,000 to $4,000 annually.
â€œAnd, often, it is actually a much higher cost because, if you re-paint a whole intersection, traffic there is stopped for a day. There is a major disruption in the production process, and that means additional cost, and itâ€™s hard to measure that,â€ Theissen says. â€œTypically, for a high-traffic area, the return on investment of a projected system is two to three years.â€
With advanced light technologies, companies are experimenting with new uses for projected signage. GoboSource, for example, is working on a pilot project in Alberta that involves projecting crosswalk signage onto the road at a traffic intersection near a school. The goal is to maintain visible signage even in the winter.
â€œThe signage is always on. When it snows, the signage would not normally be visible. But a projected image can be projected onto the snow and will always be visible,â€ Theissen says. â€œIt will make sure the cars stop for the kids.â€