Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Signs and labels can help improve shop-floor safety

June 13, 2013
By Jack Rubinger

If you’re an owner/operator of a Canadian plant and a worker is injured, you’re going to be held personally responsible and could be hit with a hefty fine or even jail time.

Canadian legislation forces employers to install machine guards, and managers can be held criminally liable if someone is injured. Though applying appropriate signage is not a defense in Canadian courts, they still help prevent injuries, thus keeping all parties out of court in the first place.

There are several options for creating safety signs and label for cables, pipes, arc flash and machine guarding. You can purchase pre-made signs, or make your own custom labels with thermal transfer printers.

One of the advantages of this process is the way the images are literally baked on to the surface of the vinyl. Of course, labeling systems are not all alike. Above and beyond price, think about the following when considering an industrial labeling system:


Mobility. Do you need to print labels on-the-fly, far away from power sources?
Printing speed. Taking a four-hour job and trimming it to 20 minutes may save more than 90 per cent on labour costs.
Software. You should be able to use Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheets, not just the software bundled with the printer.
Ease of use. If you don’t want to read a manual, then you want a printer you can get started using right out of the box.
Widths and lengths. Are you applying a label to a ? inch wire or an enormous wastewater treatment plant pipe?
Environment. UV exposure, chemicals and oils wreak havoc on signs and labels. Look for labeling supplies specifically designed for your environment.
Testing. Check to see if abrasion, temperature and accelerated weathering tests are conducted on supplies.
Innovation. The best labeling system manufacturers are relentless in their pursuit of new developing supplies and accessories, even if there’s a limited market for a particular supply. If they can create special labels for huge underwater cables to withstand the roughest deep-sea conditions, they can probably make labels that’ll work in your plant.
Standardization. How do other departments in your company operate? Consistent messaging is a key component of standardization.

Be sure to regularly review your signage for currency and readability. If you’ve added new machines or expanded your facility, it’s time to update your signs and labels with the appropriate messages. And the best advice? Keep your messages short and to the point.

Copywriter/public relations manager Jack Rubinger, Graphic Products, Inc., has published articles about a wide range of industries from mining to manufacturing. Contact him at or visit

This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.

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