In Compliance Magazine Features Clarion Article On Language Use In Product Safety Labels

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In Compliance Magazine, a leading resource for electrical engineering professionals, has featured industry insight from Clarion Safety Systems in its latest issue, where languages used in product safety labels is discussed

An example of a multilingual safety label formatting option

An example of a multilingual safety label formatting option (Label design ©Clarion Safety Systems. All rights reserved.)

The question of whether or not to use additional languages on product safety labels can be a complex one. Languages are a reoccurring topic that we’ve seen as a struggle point for both clients and the standards committees.

Clarion Safety Systems, a leading designer and manufacturer of safety signs and safety labels, has been featured in the latest issue of In Compliance Magazine, a leading resource for electrical engineering professionals.

In Compliance delivers the latest news, standards updates, technical explanations and guidance, as an aid for engineers to turn to for education, information and inspiration.

Clarion Safety Systems provides insight for the magazine’s “On Your Mark” series. “On Your Mark” is a regular column that readers have enjoyed for six years running, discussing the latest best practices and cutting-edge trends in product safety labeling.

The latest column, published in the magazine’s January 2017 edition, is the first in this year’s four-part series. The article shares insight on effectively using languages in product safety labels.

“The question of whether or not to use additional languages on safety labels can be a complex one. At Clarion Safety Systems, our insight into product and workplace safety communication comes from two primary sources: working with our clients’ engineering teams to design safety sign and label systems for thousands of products and facilities, and our leadership roles on the ANSI and ISO committees responsible for writing and revising the latest standards related to risk communication. Languages are a reoccurring topic that we’ve seen as a struggle point for both clients and the standards committees,” according to the article.

The article describes two key issues driving this struggle: work environments’ increasing diversity, and the need for safety signs and labels to be quickly and easily understood so people can gain an immediate awareness of hazards and avoid accidents and injuries. While there is no obligation in the U.S. to provide warnings in multiple languages on products, the goal for manufacturers is to put a safe product into the marketplace. This often means providing adequate warnings when hazards can’t be designed out of the product. It becomes a question of ensuring that potentially lifesaving on-product warnings are effectively understood by the intended audience, which may contain people unable to read English.

The starting point for U.S. product safety label best practices is the ANSI Z535 standards. ANSI Z535.4, the product safety label standard, has a large degree of flexibility built into the format options it gives manufacturers for their safety labels. In addition, in the standard’s Section 3.1.1 and Annex C, it allows manufacturers to use product safety label formats contained in ISO 3864-2, the international standard for product safety labels. The option to use international formats is an important one, as it emphasizes the need to use symbols to communicate across language barriers.

“Symbols are key to communicating safety, especially to a multilingual audience. Symbols represent the state-of-the-art for conveying information quickly and across language barriers and their use, informed by the ISO standards, have become an integral part of product safety label design,” according to the article. A number of multilingual safety label formats are shown that combine English and foreign language text and signal word panels onto a single safety label, including vertical and horizontal options that can be modified to include multiple word message panels and multiple signal word panels.

When it comes to selecting what specific language to use on product safety labels, the standards do not make that determination. ANSI Z535 doesn’t definitively state which additional languages to use on signs and labels because the standards need to be able to be applied across a wide range of industries and products.

“That decision belongs to you – the design engineer, the manufacturer, the facility owner. You’re in the better place to make the determination that your signs and labels may or may not need to use more than one language; you know whether or not your products’ expected audiences would benefit from additional languages.”

Clarion is an active member of the ANSI and ISO standards committees. The company’s CEO, Geoffrey Peckham, is chair of the ANSI Z535 Committee for Safety Signs and Colors and of ANSI’s U.S. TAG to the ISO standards committee responsible for safety signs, labels, colors and symbols (ISO/TC 145). He has also been selected as a member of the U.S. TAG to ISO/PC 283, an ISO committee writing a new standard, ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems, which will, when finished, define global best practices for workplace safety. In addition, he is an active member of many industry-specific standards committees related to safety signs and labels for buildings, ships, machinery and products.

The full article is available through In Compliance Magazine’s website. To learn more about the latest developments in product safety labeling, visit Clarion’s online safety label Learning Center or watch its short, educational videos on “Effective Safety Symbols, Signs and Labels” and “ISO Symbols for Safety Signs and Labels.”

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Erin Earley
Clarion Safety Systems
+1 570-296-5686 Ext: 228
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