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Workplace safety signs can prevent accidents and save lives

While most Louisiana residents pay little attention to the safety signs posted about their workplaces, research shows that notices warning workers of hazardous conditions or dangerous machinery can play a crucial role in preventing job-related accidents and injuries. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets the standards for workplace safety signs, and in 2013 the federal safety agency began recommending signs that meet the American National Standards Institute's Z535 guidelines.

Many factories and processing facilities around the country still rely on signs that warn workers using words only, and older sign designs can still be found on the OSHA website and in the federal watchdog's catalogs. The latest ANSI safety sign standards, which were introduced in 1991, call for signs that convey warnings with vivid graphics as well as words and explain to workers the type of hazards they are facing and steps they can take to protect themselves.

Older safety signs are considered less effective because they can only be read and understood by individuals who can speak English. They also provide workers with little useful information beyond a warning. ANSI has been studying the impact that safety signs can have on accident and injury rates since the early 1940s. Since then, warning signs have gone from basic arrows that simply pointed out hazards to multicolored graphical signs in two or more languages that guide as well as warn workers.

While workers who suffer injuries after ignoring warning signs may be accused of recklessness, their negligent behavior will generally not prevent them from qualifying for workers' compensation benefits. However, there are times when employers attempt to contest these claims. Attorneys with experience in this area may argue on behalf of injured workers during hearings when their employers claim that they were injured outside work or are exaggerating the severity of their injuries.

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