Watching Out for Dangers in the Workplace: How to Improve Visibility and Prevent Incidents
Installing strategically placed mirrors is the surest way to improve visibility in your workplace.
Whenever you approach an intersection in an industrial setting or a warehouse facility, you need to know what's coming around the next corner. With so many workers, heavy loads, and machinery making their way across the floor, everyone is watching for hazards and dangers – but you can't be on the lookout for things you can't see.
So what's the best way to design your workplace to make sure that no one gets harmed as a result of blind spots?
There are many ways to increase visibility in the workplace, including lights, signage, and warning sounds. By far one of the most effective means, however, is increasing the worker's line of sight by the selective use and careful placement of mirrors.
Mirrors Increase Visibility in the Workplace
There are traffic mirrors for road and intersection safety, and similar mirrors for warehouses that use forklifts or other vehicles whose drivers need to be aware of pedestrian traffic. There are mirrors for security and loss prevention in retail environments, and other types of mirrors used for inspections of vehicles and equipment used in a variety of industries, including transportation, travel, and machine maintenance.
Most facilities have some mirrors in place, but just placing a few mirrors where you think there might be some blind spots might not be effective. A better way is to begin with an inspection by a professional with knowledge and expertise in addressing visibility issues. An inspection and report will identify problem areas that need to be addressed and make suggestions for improving safety.
Although not mandatory, properly placed mirrors are highly recommended by OSHA and insurance companies for the safety of forklift or other machinery operators and those who work around them (for more on forklift safety, see Forklift Safety 101).
Mirror placement typically follows a few basic guidelines:
- Convex mirrors are designed to provide a view for a specific angle in a 160-degree range
- Mirrored domes provide a view to each direction exposed to the viewer
- Both dome and convex mirrors share the same rule of thing: one inch of mirror diameter equals one foot of viewing distance
Slogan or Signage Mirrors
Signage mirrors offer another option for increasing safety in your workplace. These mirrors are designed to improve visibility while deliver a customized message regarding the hazards or dangers in that location, such as reminding workers to wear their hard hat, safety glasses, or hearing protectors. Some companies use these slogan mirrors to promote company or product branding, or to draw attention to safety policies or programs.
When choosing a slogan or signage mirror, look for products that print according to your specifications and provide a second surface printing to the mirrors to eliminate double image reflections or peeling and fading of the print.
Lights and Reflective Surfaces
Proper lighting, beyond the typical exterior and interior lights required to illuminate workspaces, can also go a long way to improving visibility.
Equipment and vehicle lights combined with reflective stripes on any surface that needs extra visibility (such as the darker areas of a warehouse) increase the likelihood that workers will pay attention, recognize the hazard, and use exercise good judgment on the job.
Using sound to increase visibility might seem counter-intuitive, but it works. A warning sound increases a worker's awareness and places their visual focus on the potential danger.
Warning sounds are commonly used to signal the presence of a vehicle, indicate that a vehicle is backing up, or signal that a piece of machinery has been activated.
To be effective, warning sounds must be loud enough that they can be heard over the typical ambient noise in the workplace.
Increasing visibility in the workplace provides an extra layer of protection in the places where safety and awareness are most needed. Products that increase visibility should be seen as essential and, therefore, maintained regularly and replaced or serviced when no longer operational.