Thought Leadership

Safety warnings – The severity of the outcome

January 28, 2014
Originally posted on Caterpillar Safety Service’s Safety Culture WORLD blog and reposted here with Caterpillar’s permission.

It seems that many of the safety warnings in our workplaces minimize the potential seriousness of an incident related to the warning signage or JSA document.  This downplayed evaluation of such dangers gives employees a false sense of security and reduces their personal risk awareness and caution. 

  • Pinch points are more often crush points or potentially fatal crush areas. 
  • Hot water is not the same temperature as bath water.  Water that is 150°F or above will scald and can potentially kill those who come in contact with it.
  • Gas warning signs do not adequately portray the danger of toxic fume inhalation or the fatal effect when flammable gases are ignited.
  • Fall protection signs do not convey the high probability of permanent disability or death from falls as short as four feet.
  • High visibility clothing and spotters do not sufficiently reduce the risk of death by crushing.
  • High voltage warning signs do not fully communicate the severity of the risk of electrocution.
  • Confined space warnings do not portray the numerous deaths which have occurred as a result of this work area danger.
  • The warning of a potential trench collapse fails to represent the number of deaths by suffocation that occur every year from this very real danger.

My guess is that many of you can add to this list of workplace dangers that are not described to the full magnitude of their potentially tragic consequences.  This abbreviated description can cause employees to let their guard down and expose themselves to dangerous safety risks. 

How do you combat this? 

Warning signs, safety videos, and computer programmed safety training do not adequately educate employees on the potential safety dangers indicated by warning signage.  A far more effective technique is front-line training by individuals who have been or are currently exposed to the safety dangers.

There is also value in learning from individuals who have experienced safety-related tragedies first-hand.

 For many of the above risks, an impactful story would heighten awareness and decrease the risk tolerance of those who face such workplace dangers. 

I once worked with a mining company that constructed a list of Fatal Risk Protocols. Each year, every employee received extensive training in 11 underground issues that had time and again led to fatalities.

The concept of this training reflects “Stop and Think”: what could happen, and how severe are the consequences? 

What safety risks exist in your workplace, and how can you effectively communicate the severity of the outcome?

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

Scenes from the World of Safety

Sights, signs & symbols from the National Safety Congress & Expo held in San Diego, CA, September 15-18

4/14/15 2:00 pm EDT

RISK-BASED SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM: Key Components for Applying Risk Tools to EHS Efforts

Join us for this webinar as we discuss how you can make effective use of risk analysis and risk management technology to guide efforts within your organization. We will distinguish between risk analysis and risk management; and identify some of the software tools that will help proactively identify, document, mitigate, and prevent high-risk events. You will learn how to improve compliance, reduce risk, and cut costs in your organization using these automated tools.

ISHN Magazine


2015 April

Check out ISHN's April issue, which features content about lockout-tagout, heat stress, hearing protection and more!

Table Of Contents Subscribe


M:\General Shared\__AEC Store Katie Z\AEC Store\Images\ISHN\safetyfourth.jpg
Safety Engineering, 4th Edition

A practical, solutions-driven reference, Safety Engineering, 4th edition, has been completely revised and updated to reflect many of today’s issues in safety.

More Products

For Distributors Only - January 2015



For Distributors Only is ISHN's niche brand standard-sized magazine supplement aimed at an audience of 2,000 U.S. distributors that sell safety products. Circulation only goes to distributors. 



Facebook logo Twitter YouTubeLinkedIn Google + icon

ishn infographics

2012 US workplace deathsCheck out ISHN's new Infographic page! Learn more about worker safety through these interactive images. CLICK HERE to view the page.