Coloring Your Way to a Safer Workplace

Color is a simple, easy, and effective way to improve your facility’s safety and productivity. Take a minute and think about the importance of color in your everyday life: traffic lights and signs, warning labels, instructional signs, and transportation maps. Imagine if you were driving one day and you came to a stop sign that was blue instead of red. Would you still notice it said STOP? Or would you have to take a minute to think about it? Consider if road signs – stop signs, yield signs, speed limit signs were all in black and white as opposed to their standard identifiable colors. Would they still have the same impact on you to follow the rules of the road? Our senses would have a difficult time picking up on their meaning quickly if they were not designated by different colors. Color plays an essential part in our everyday lives. These same concepts carry into the workplace, where the effective use of color in labels and signs promotes a safer and more productive environment for employees and visitors.

Color’s Effect On Our Moods, Perceptions, and Decisions

Though we may not realize it, color has proven effects on our behavior. A 1960s experiment proved color’s effect on the subconscious mind. Two groups were given placebo sleeping pills containing the exact same medication. In one group, the pills were a blue color, and in the other group, the pills were a pink color. The group given the blue pills reported feeling much sleepier – 72% of the group felt sleepy after taking the pills. In the other group given the pink pills, only 32% reported feeling sleepy. What did this study further prove? That blue is perceived to promote tranquility and calmness, whereas pink or red projects a feeling of alertness or energy.

Safer Workplace Through Color

When colors are used as part of a repetitive, standardized system, our brains respond, and we react quickly – such as knowing to stop when we approach a red light. We tend to feel more uncomfortable and take a longer time to make decisions when there isn’t a consistency for us to follow. Our actions become more efficient the more we build color consistency into our lives.

Studies have shown that color can improve learning by 55-78% and comprehension by 40%. Ensure your workers understand processes and safety precautions through color!

What Color Means For Your Workplace Safety

A powerful tool, color speaks a visual language and conveys information quickly. The universal language of color can simplify learning, cut training costs, and make your workplace more efficient and safer. There are 5 main reasons using color in visual messages is important in the workplace:

  • Color Speeds Visual Search
  • Color Improves Recognition
  • Color Emphasizes Information
  • Color Shows Associations
  • Color Transmits Important Information

Color Speeds Visual Search
Information is conveyed quickly and easily through color and color coding. Through color, we locate a specific feature or item among many distractors through visually scanning our soundings, oftentimes without even realizing it. We visually recognize and identify where to locate certain items or how to respond to warnings or directional signage when consistent color standards and color coding are used.

Color Improves Recognition
Remember the blue stop sign example from above? Our brains make a faster connection when color reflects the way we are used to seeing those things. A blue stop sign would cause us to pause and think about what it means and what action needs to be taken. This additional time slows the process and causes inefficiencies.

Color Emphasizes Information
We are drawn to colors, especially bright colors. When we first look at something, our brain cannot process everything all at once. Use color to emphasis information, or specific areas on an object quickly. Think about an office building. One door may have a sign above it that says EXIT in red lettering, indicating it is an exit to the outside in case of emergency. Another door near it may not have any signage above it.

Color Shows Associations
Using the same color shows a correlation. The color indicates a similar theme or subject matter. Sections organized by color in a manual indicate like components grouped together. This concept also applies to product parts that use colors to show how to put them together.

Color Transmits Important Information
Colors are required to transmit important information to employees and visitors in the workplace. Because we rely on color associations and scanning for color cues, the proper use of a standardized color code is the first step to a safer, more productive workplace. Consider a yellow crossing sign – anytime this yellow sign catches a person’s attention, they know the message is important and that caution must be taken.

Using colored signs and labels can go a long way towards increasing productivity and safety in your workplace. A consistent color standard helps employees quickly recognize and respond with the correct action. This is essential in establishing and maintaining a safe workplace. Using safety signs with standardized colors helps to speed up recognition and response time to workplace hazards. A red danger sign indicates to an employee to pay attention and make sure they are taking steps to keep safe. Visual cues through color also improve productivity and efficiency. Color coding and effective labeling help reinforce employee training and guide workers to complete their tasks more quickly. Check out this infographic – The Power of Color – from Brady.

To help you color your way to an improved workplace, Brady offers multi-color sign and label printers, along with a wide variety of facility identification products and solutions. Color your way to an improved workplace!

What other tips can you provide on this topic? Share your thoughts in the comments.

*Adapted from Brady (2015): Color Your Way to an Improved Workplace

About the author

Jim Lanz
Jim Lanz

Jim supports our sales team and helps our customers achieve a safe, healthy, and accident-free work environment in his role of Safety Specialist at Horizon Solutions. Jim has over 15 years experience in the field of safety which includes extensive OSHA compliance experience and executing safety programs for manufacturing facilities. Jim is an Authorized OSHA Outreach Instructor, and facilitates safety training classes that involve custom curriculum that meets the specific needs of our customers.