Machinery Safety 101

Do-It-Yourself Safety Labels, Signs and Tags

One of the great chal­lenges that all product design­ers face is the sourcing of appro­pri­ate product safety labels. There are many sources for off-the-shelf labels includ­ing some of the biggest names in mark­ing and labelling, but until now, none have offered a way for product man­u­fac­tur­ers to devel­op stand­ards-com­pli­ant haz­ard warn­ing signs and labels them­selves. If you read this blog very often, you’ll know that I often pro­mote the use of safety labels as part of apply­ing the Hier­archy of Con­trols. Clari­on Safety Sys­tems is the first name I men­tion to my cli­ents because Clari­on’s designs and stand­ards com­pli­ance are unmatched in the industry.

Clari­on Safety Sys­tems launched a new Cus­tom Product Design­er applic­a­tion that any­one can use. It’s access­ible through the Clari­on web site, and is free unless you choose to pur­chase the label you design. I had a chance to take it for a test drive over the hol­i­days, and I’m going to share my exper­i­ence with you here.

Three Main Categories

The Cus­tom Product Design­er offers three broad cat­egor­ies to start the design pro­cess: Cus­tom Safety Labels, Cus­tom Safety Signs, and Cus­tom Safety Tags. At this point, you should have a copy of the risk assess­ment for the product or pro­cess next to your key­board, as that doc­u­ment should be driv­ing the design of the label, sign or tag that you plan to design.

Clari­on’s Cus­tom Product Designer

Each Cat­egory is sub­divided into the gen­er­al types of label, sign, or tag, e.g., Danger, Warn­ing, Cau­tion or Notice labels. Select­ing one of these choices takes you to the next stage in the design. For quick ref­er­ence, remem­ber that each of those cat­egor­ies rep­res­ents one of the Sig­nal Words described in ANSI Z535.4. So if your risk assess­ment shows that a severe injury or a fatal­ity is prob­able, then the DANGER cat­egory should be selec­ted. If, on the oth­er hand, a severe injury or fatal­ity is pos­sible but not prob­able, then the WARNING cat­egory should be selec­ted. If only minor injur­ies are pos­sible, then the CAUTION level should be selec­ted. The NOTICE cat­egory gives the man­u­fac­turer the oppor­tun­ity to place crit­ic­al instruc­tions right on the product so they are imme­di­ately avail­able to the user at all times.

For this art­icle, I’m select­ing the WARNING label cat­egory, but the design pro­cess is essen­tially the same for each of the sig­nal word categories.

Pick­ing the label style

Next, a quick selec­tion for the label lay­out is needed, You can choose between a label with a haz­ard pic­to­gram and text, or just text. Stud­ies have shown that warn­ing labels with pic­to­grams are easi­er for most people to under­stand quickly, and that the pic­to­grams can often bridge the under­stand­ing gap with people who may not be lit­er­ate in the label’s lan­guage or at all.

The Label Designer

Here’s where the rub­ber meets the road – the label design screen. Since I selec­ted the 3‑panel label design, a pan­el on the right offers a selec­tion of pic­to­grams I can choose from. The pic­to­grams come in two formats: ANSI and ISO. Since the basic format of the label is the ANSI format, it might not seem to make sense that ISO pic­to­grams would be offered, how­ever, hybrid labels using the ANSI format and ISO pic­to­grams are per­mit­ted by ANSI Z535.4, so if you see an ISO pic­to­gram that describes your haz­ard, feel free to use it.

Select­ing a pictogram 

I’ve been doing a lot of con­vey­or related work recently, so I’m going to select the ISO belt-con­vey­or in-run­ning nip haz­ard pic­to­gram for my label. Select­ing the pic­to­gram auto­mat­ic­ally drops the pic­to­gram into the cor­rect pan­el on the label and sizes it cor­rectly for you.

The label with the in-run­ning nip haz­ard pictogram

OK, so the next step is to cre­ate the text por­tion of the label. The ANSI label for­mula breaks the word mes­sage down into three key parts: the type of haz­ard, the con­sequences of not avoid­ing the haz­ard, and how to avoid the haz­ard. When you click the NEXT but­ton, the design­er opens a pan­el with three fields for the three parts of the message.

The text pan­el show­ing the three-part structure

Since I’m deal­ing with an in-run­ning nip haz­ard on a con­vey­or head pul­ley, i.e., the driv­en roller at the deliv­ery end of the con­vey­or, I came up with the fol­low­ing lines:

  1. In-run­ning nip
  2. Fin­ger, hand & arm entanglement
  3. Do not oper­ate with guards removed. Keep hands clear of mov­ing parts. 

It’s worth not­ing that I had to shorten my ori­gin­al mes­sage quite a bit. It’s easy to want to put too much on a label, and the text tool really helps to keep that in check. 

The Design­er allows you to adjust the size of the text, as well as jus­ti­fic­a­tion, and you can move the text lines up or down to get the mes­sage com­pon­ents in the right order. There’s also a handy ref­er­ence that can be accessed by hov­er­ing your mouse over the info but­ton (small circle with an “i” in it and “Design Guidance”).

The design­er builds a spe­cific­a­tion sheet for the label as you build it, put­ting all the key inform­a­tion togeth­er below the design graphic.

Here’s my fin­ished design!

You can see that there is a range of prices shown. This is because I have yet to pick a sub­strate mater­i­al and a size which will allow the tool to set the final price. So, one last step. Now that the label is designed, I need to select the type of mater­i­al from which the label will be made. Select­ing the NEXT but­ton opens the mater­i­al select­or panel.

Since my cus­tom­er is a paper mill, I’m select­ing an Out­door Poly­es­ter sub­strate for its res­ist­ance to UV, water and harsh envir­on­ments. I’m also pick­ing a 4” x 2” size to make it vis­ible on the large con­vey­ors where it will be used.

Done! Total time: 10 minutes, most of which was spent edit­ing the text message. ??

The Fin­ished Design

As you can see, I now have a com­plete spe­cific­a­tion for the label, right down to the unit pri­cing, and it’s ready to go into my cart so I can pur­chase the label immediately.

For doc­u­ment­a­tion pur­poses, being able to pro­duce PDF or prin­ted haz­ard warn­ing spe­cific­a­tion sheets at the end of the design pro­cess is an import­ant part of the risk mit­ig­a­tion doc­u­ment­a­tion. In addi­tion, the spe­cific­a­tions should be used as part of the product val­id­a­tion pro­cess, ensur­ing that the right label gets on the product in the right place. Cus­tom­ers are able to down­load an image of their label and sign designs once they’re pur­chased.  As part of Clari­on Safety’s order­ing pro­cess, cus­tom­ers also receive an email remind­er that their design is stored in their online account for their records. The engin­eer or pur­chas­ing agent can log-in to their online account at at any time to access designs cre­ated with the tool.

Product cer­ti­fic­a­tion bod­ies like CSA and UL test the dur­ab­il­ity of labels with a solvent rub­bing test, as well as a flame test. If the print­ing wipes off the label to any extent when exposed to the solvent, or if the label mater­i­al sus­tains a flame dur­ing the flame test, your product could fail to be cer­ti­fied. Clarion’s labels meet these require­ments without dif­fi­culty. In my exper­i­ence, there are few com­pet­it­ors in the mar­ket that pro­duce the same dur­able, qual­ity product as those pro­duced by Clari­on Safety.

Over­all, I really like this new tool, and I think you will too when you try it. While some of the oth­er com­pet­it­ors have design soft­ware that can be pur­chased and used with their print­ers, no one else pro­duces a 100% stand­ards com­pli­ant product at the end. To try the tool out, vis­it

Full dis­clos­ure: I did not receive any com­pens­a­tion or con­sid­er­a­tion from Clari­on Safety Sys­tems in return for this review.

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Acknow­ledge­ments: Clari­on Safety Systems
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