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Warning signs play an important workplace safety role

It is probably safe to assume that most Oklahoma employees pay little attention to the safety signs scattered about their workplaces, but a great deal of research has been done into how best to warn them about hazardous conditions and machinery. The standards for safety signs are set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but many of the warning notices at workplaces around the country are out of step with the latest best practices.

Most of these signs provide warnings to workers using words only, and OSHA rules still reference decades-old sign standards. The latest guidelines from the American National Standards Institute recommend signs that communicate information graphically and provide workers with more details about the hazard and what they should do to protect themselves. ANSI has been publishing safety sign standards since 1941 when most workplaces relied on crude arrows to point out dangerous conditions to workers.

Traditional oval safety signs are less effective because they only identify hazards and do little to protect workers who are unable to read and understand English. ANSI standards call for signs that also include imagery and provide advice as well as warnings. The current Z535 standards were released by ANSI in 1991, and OSHA has been urging employers to place workplace safety signs that meet these standards since 2013.

Even the most noticeable and effective signs cannot make workplaces completely safe, and thousands of workers are killed or injured in job-related accidents in the United States each year. Attorneys can often help injured workers to navigate the complex and sometimes confusing workers' compensation application process, and they could also ensure that they apply for all of the benefits they are entitled to.

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