Signs Upon Signs: Messages Have Become So Plentiful That We Begin to Tune Them Out

By Mike Burk

“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.”

That’s the lyric from a song by Five Man Electrical Band, as part of their “Good-Byes and Butterflies” album, released in 1971. The song continues, “Everywhere a sign, blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” Welcome to 2021 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have covered the entry to every building with warning signs: “Entrance Only”; “Masks Required”; “Stay Six Feet Apart.” Inside there are signs on the floor stating: “Stand Here”; “Do Not Stand Here.”

Truly we have gone to the extreme. There are so many signs that most people simply ignore them all, as signs blend together and are now, as the song goes, “blockin’ out the scenery.”

Have you ever considered that the same thing may be happening in your facility?

We are all familiar with the old standby signs that hang in so many of our factories and offices: “Safety is No Accident”; “Safety First”; “Think Safety”; “Quality Matters”; and many more.

Is it possible that your associates have seen the signs for so long that they blend together and are now simply “blockin’ out the scenery?” Might the signs be so old and so redundant that they are totally ineffective and have started “breakin’ the minds” of your associates? You know that many of these signs have been hanging around for a long time. They are covered with dirt and dust and most likely are being ignored by everyone.

It might be a good time to update the signs in your facility. The internet is full of great new quality, production and safety slogans, which will catch people’s attention and may cause them to remember the message. “A Spill, a Slip, a Hospital Trip”; “Don’t Be a Fool—Use The Proper Tool”; and many others.

Make sure that the message is clear, understandable and appropriate. Be careful that the signs make sense in the prominent languages spoken by your employees.

Signs of Caution

Use care when using signs which indicate the number of days since the last lost-time accident. Many companies use these signs to reach milestones and reward employees for their successful safety efforts. Outcome-based safety awards do not violate OSHA regulations, but management must be sure that the intent of the program is to promote a safer workplace. The program must clearly support reporting requirements.

We can be a doubtful people—often ignoring warnings and advice given by others. Lyrics from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” tell us, “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” These words are remarkably similar to the hyperbolic proverb accredited to Ben Franklin: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see,” and Edgar Allen Poe’s, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.” If this is truly the case, we must double our efforts with creative signage and constant verbal reminders to our coworkers.

It appears that the pandemic might be starting to ease. As our co-workers begin to return to our offices and factories, welcome them with new signs and new slogans that grab their attention. But be careful not to overdo it. We don’t want to “block out the scenery.”

Mike Burk is the North American technical representative for Sparklike.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

DWM Magazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *