Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Promoting Safety, Security And Wellbeing With Signage

November 10, 2011

Custodial professionals, building services contractors and industrial cleaners who mop, clean windows, vacuum, scrub tanks and do pressure washing have a second job — serving as critical safety agents for building and plant managers.

Janitorial staffs can assist the facility managers or safety staff by making note of any damaged, missing or unreadable signs or labels, which should always be noted to an immediate supervisor.

Meanings Of Signs And Labels

There are safety hazards throughout buildings and facilities, and cleaning staffs need to comprehend safety signs and labels.

They should be familiar with lockout/tagout (LO/TO), a life-saving procedure in which repairs are made to machines when power sources are removed, locked out, tagged out and isolated.

Because they may need to follow LO/TO procedures, janitorial staffs need to recognize — and, more importantly, obey — the signs, labels and tags they see.

LO/TO, in particular, can be of special concern because such signs and tags are not used every day.

So, janitorial staffs that work in industrial facilities should receive LO/TO training and know what they need to do — or not do — in response to LO/TO signs and tags.

Custodial professionals must also comprehend the right-to-know labels used in a facility, as these warn about hazardous and dangerous chemicals.

Janitorial staffs should use appropriate signs, barriers and warning systems as they are doing their work.

These warn others about hazards such as slippery floors, fall hazards and areas that are closed.

"My staffs use wet floor signs, falling ice signs, orange or red cones on or near hazards and caution tape," says John Csehill, owner of The Infinity Concern Inc. "Signs are most effective when placed in break areas or by the time clock, but they must be constantly changed to be noticed or they will simply become part of the unnoticed background like a light switch you never use."

Bridging the gap between standard janitorial signs and facility safety signs such as LO/TO signs and tags will help foster a safer and more secure work environment.

A Tailored Approach

At times, there is a need for custom labels or signs, such as for marking equipment, organizing supplies or identifying vehicles.

For this type of marking, a thermal transfer printer may be the ideal solution.

These battery-powered printers are compact and mobile, enabling users to print on the go.

Our research has shown that thermal transfer sign and label printers create longer-lasting labels and are more durable in industrial settings than ink jet printers.

If your labels fail to perform for any reason, then safety is compromised — something no one wants.

Thermal transfer printers may be used by custodial professionals who service office buildings, hospitals, stores, manufacturing facilities, warehouses and distribution centers.

Compatible with a wide range of printing supplies, safety messages are always clear and constant when printed in-house to unique specifications.

"We focus on manufacturing facilities and adjacent offices as our customer base," notes Ken Galo, owner of L & K Office and Industrial Cleaning Services. "This is where signage becomes important, since most of our customers work in the manufacturing areas while we are doing our jobs. We have to pay attention to lockout and tagout signs from maintenance personnel so we don''t turn on a circuit breaker to get power to a line of outlets for our buffers or charging an autoscrubber. Since many lines carry power in a grid, an open outlet in the corner may also be connected to a pole outlet that a machine is using, and the maintenance may have the power off while doing a repair."

Signs and labels have come a long way in recent years, particularly in regard to vinyl supplies.

Your environment will dictate the kinds of labeling supplies that will make the most sense.

Consider the following:

  • Wayfinding signs and facility maps direct visitors and employees to entrances, exits and departments. Wayfinding signs need to be highly visible, appropriate for the design scheme of the office, building or school and must communicate key messages with few words. In some cases, wayfinding signs may help guide people in emergencies such as fires and power outages.
  • Repositionable tapes are specially engineered to adhere to many of the same flat surfaces as many permanent labels. These labels are made to provide lasting service and can be reapplied repeatedly. They are ideal for use in temporary inventory labeling, work-in-progress signage, maintenance project signage, identifying temporary workstations and marking items needing repair.

Steve Stephenson is a managing partner at Graphic Products Inc. of Portland, Oregon. He can be contacted at or 1-800-788-5572. Getting up to speed on all the sign, label and printer options takes time and patience. For more about sign and label printers, supplies and how-to information about applying labels, preparing labeling surfaces and tiling to make large signs, visit