Even with a well-trained staff, a careless moment in a laboratory could lead to an accident. The challenge confronting many teachers, lab managers and chemical hygiene officers is how to raise the level of safety awareness among everyone in the lab at all times. One piece of low-hanging fruit often ignored by lab managers and safety officers is the value of hanging a lab safety poster. It's easy and very inexpensive.
What a Lab Safety Poster Can Accomplish
While it's true that just tacking up a poster will not magically make your work environment safer, here are four things a poster can accomplish:
- The ever-present visual reminder reinforces a culture of safety.
- In an emergency, posters can serve as a quick-reference guide, promoting clear, procedural thinking in panicky situations.
- Colorful posters give daydreamers something to look at, making downtime more productive.
- Not everyone in the lab receives the same verbal safety reminders at the same frequency. Posters help fill the gaps.
The Problem: Yeah, Yeah, I Heard It Already
Over time, there is always the danger that your lab safety poster will become a standard fixture in the lab that no one notices anymore, not even you. It might as well be wallpaper.
How can you get people to notice? Fundamentally, it boils down to a basic challenge of convincing people to care. This challenge is not new.
How many people were paying rapt attention to the pre-flight safety review last time you were on an airplane? The reasons people ignore safety reminders in the lab are the same reasons they ignore safety reminders on an airplane. We've all sat through those safety reminders so many times, we feel like we don't need to hear it again.
But the fact is, we do. A 2015 study found that people retain only about half of what they hear in an in-flight safety briefing. When a US Airways flight landed in the Hudson River in 2009, only 33 of the 150 passengers exited the plane wearing the life vest as instructed to do in the event of a water landing. Just 17 percent told investigators later that they had watched the safety video.
Here at the Laboratory Safety Institute, we confront the issue of convincing people to care all the time. Over the past 35 years, we have discovered nearly 100 ways to convince others that lab safety is important. In fact, "How to Convince Others" is the title of one of our standard webinars.
What To Do When Your Poster Is Ignored
Here are a few tips to breathe life into your poster.
- Keep changing out posters on a regular basis or move the posters to different locations.
- During new employee or student orientations, don't just introduce the water cooler and the coffee maker. Introduce the posters and point out their contents.
- Use items from the lab safety poster, such as our 40 lab safety rules, as the basis for regular departmental safety meetings.
- Make your poster interactive: Consider writing safety reminders on a whiteboard. Everyone is encouraged to add their own reminders draw little pictures.
And now for a shameless plug. Here are some of the best lab safety posters we've found, available on our online store: