Safety is a universal concern that crosses borders, cultures and all environments. Typically, to meet the confusion created by a world full of different languages, the use of symbols; pictures that carry the message in themselves are utilised. Signs tend to be directions that either carry words giving instructions or describing the nature of a hazard.
Standardisation is almost a norm in safety information, and yet the very nature of risk and hazard is varied, often unpredictable and often unique to a particular set of circumstances.
The whole process of ensuring a safety message is finely tuned to the inherent risk has changed the technologies available to make a sign or label, something that carries both the symbol and also a narrative that adds additional details.
Localisation is also of increasing importance and the speed of delivery increases the efficacy of the sign or the label. Over several decades, the ability to be able to design and print a low volume sign or label with a finely defined safety message has grown exponentially. The production of such signs and labels has increasingly become a task undertaken in-house and on-site versus the pre-printed sign and label that is often delivered in volume from a sign catalogue or a print house.
Fast and increasingly large ink jet systems have revolutionised the broader sign printing industry, giving faster delivery times and bringing costs down – but a volume is always required to maintain the price point. With an in-house device costs are finely controlled, delivery is virtually immediate and the ability to customise the message is all conquering when risk is the prime threat.
Safety signs are not just the typical ‘no’ and ‘warning’ messages that populate industry. Safety signs are anything that gives clear information allowing the viewer to be aware of a risk, how to correctly operate a device or even what goes to where.
Colours are as standardised as the symbols that are used in safety messages, shape and size, however, are as equally as important. Safety messages not just square, round and triangular. An instruction label for a complex piece of equipment or a large piece of heavy plant machinery can be almost any size and equally any shape. Fitting the contours and even the recesses of a surface or device ensures the sign or label stays where it is designed to be and also makes it more effective as it adapts to the location in the prime line of sight.
Colour and cut technology has been around for some time, but tailoring this to the demands of in-house sign and label creation is relatively new. Previously, direct thermal transfer systems were the norm but additional colours and ultimately the ability to also deliver a unique shape grew in demand.
Now there are hybrid systems, like the Rebo SMS-R1, that will sit comfortably on an office desk or on a work surface and, using any popular design software, create multi-colour signs and labels in virtually any shape and in quantities from one up to several hundred, The thermal transfer technology is robust and extremely durable – an inherent weakness in the inkjet industry. The range of substrates to print on is also very comprehensive – as safety messages need to endure heat, cold, abrasion, Ultra Violet, chemicals and the strange compulsion in the human character to want to pick off labels and signs.
So whether you are delivering Symbols or Signs to the workplace and you have a small or a large enterprise – the apparent tedium or effort often associated with in-house creation is easily offset by speed, flexibility and – ultimately – finer cost controls. It’s a well-worn cliché but new technology is now an essential sign of the times.