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 ClarionSafety.com 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 ClarionSafety.com.

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

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