The prevention hierarchy helps us determine the priorities in the detection and reduce risks. These are the seven levels:

  1. Eliminate the risk
  2. Replace risk with safer alternatives
  3. Combat risks at source
  4. Provide collective protection
  5. Provide personal protection
  6. Provide training
  7. Signage - warning

Eliminate the risk

Evaluate the need to perform certain risky procedures within the company. The best way to something more secure is by ensuring that the dangerous situation disappears.

Replace risk with safer alternatives

For many products there are safer alternatives.

Combat risks at source

As early as possible in the chain try to combat the risks. If certain risks are already disabled, for example during production, this will already provide a safer transport.

Provide collective protection

Collective protection ensures that an entire group of employees or third parties are not exposed to certain risks. Typical examples are safety cages, shutting down a site, a balustrade, air filters, ...

Provide personal protection

Personal protective equipment provide protection to a person - typical examples include: hearing protection, safety footwear, helmets, protective clothing, goggles, ...

Note: Personal protection offer no protection to bystanders or employees who work in the vicinity of a risk.

Provide training

This measure actually belongs aside all the other: workers at all times need to be trained to safely deal with the risks they are exposed to. Newsletters, toolbox meetings, external or internal training, ... Typical courses include: BA4/BA5-attest, forklift driver, HACCP rules, ...

Training enhances the competency of workers. The result is not only safer personnel, but also more productive and motivated employees.

Signage - warning

At the end of each risk analysis some residual risks will always remain. Often these are acceptably low, sometimes only very specific groups will be exposed (eg technical service for maintenance).

Signage can be done by means of symbols, visual signs or auditive signals, but can also be tangible (for example the soft tiles along the street may indicate a crosswalk to blind and partially sighted people), or an odor (eg: natural gas is is odorless - a smelly substance is added for domestic use. If the gas remains open, your nose will warn you).

verbod - muziek hoofdtelefoonWho works in a warehouse, back to the problem: you can't reach or forklift operator (m/f) (from now on: the network engineer conveniently) just buzz through your warehouse while the world around him disappears and he destroyed his ears only hear the music that is via an iPod, smartphone or other MP3 player. If prevention consultant or security-conscious storekeeper skyrocketing hair you t and you tend to go half warehouse hung with icons of prohibition ...

Icons are very useful to convey information, or people to recall agreements. The problem Is that there is no support for a given measure, you'll have so many icons hang e will-they will only work if they are combined with a repressive policy. And even then your employees will go in search of loopholes ...

Without compromising the usefulness of a well-designed security icon, I think it still makes sense to take exercise and to do the risk analysis: what are the risks? Why is there this persistent behavior? What measures are possible?

Read more: MP3 players in forklift trucks... a recurring sore toe

Safety signs are often used to improve occupational safety as well as safety in daily life. Yet, according to the prevention hierarchy it should be the last resort. Nevertheless, icons are important. Even after a thorough risk assessment, residual risks will always remain.

Signs (and icons in general) draw the users attention to possible risks and may provide guidelines to improve safe behavior. Using a set of instructions (mandatory - prohibitions - warnings - clear symbols) you as an employer can drastically increase the safety.

Some signs are mandatory (f.e. GHS symbols on hazardous products in accordance to the REACH legislation). Others are implemented in European or national regulations (Law on Social Welfare, Arbo-legislation, HSE-regulations, public smoking prohibition) or are recommended by professional associations (f.e. the "Safe use" icons on household products). Anyhow, safety signs are here to stay.

Quite a few online companies offer the option to order safety signs on high quality materials (see weblinks).
Yet, there is an increasing need for the icons in digital format, to be used not only in evacuation plans, safety instruction cards and safety labels on hazardous substances, but also for example in educational use (manuals, instruction sheets, projection, assignments on safety).

The icons on this site are available in two vector formats:
SVG: (Scalable Vector Graphics), an open standard for vector drawings
EMF: (Enhanced metafile) for easy import into MS Office applications

The icons were designed using the open source application Inkscape. This is also an excellent application for the design of evacuation plans.

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