An interesting blog article with many links on the value of signage to address safety issues can be found at
Making Sense of Semiotics and Safety
Semiotics is about symbol (sign, significance, signified and signifyer) as language and text as symbol and, the discourse (power-trajectory) of both. Semiotic influence is tertiary and non-conscious. Semiotics is ignored by the safety industry because Safety is bogged down with engineering and regulatory world views. For Safety, if you can"t feel it, see it or touch it " it doesn"t exist. Safety is about "workspace" not "headspace" and "groupspace".
Yet Safety is the industry that is flooded with signs. When Safety doesn"t know what to do, when Safety can"t see a control, when Safety can"t see a cause, it plonks up a sign. Not that Safety understands the power of signs, the psychology of signs, the unconscious nature of semiotics or the sense of signs but because any noise that fills the airspace must be good. A study of the "This Toaster is Hot" link on this blog is enough evidence of this.
The old belief that "something is better than nothing" is a prevalent mythology in Safety thinking. This is how we end up with Hazardman campaigns, dumb ways to die campaigns and the Love of Zero. I often see the erroneous logic on Linkedin, "well at least they are having a go". Whilst this may be admirable in one sense, it ignores the invisible and unconscious by-products and trade-off associated with that "go". If the campaign devalues Safety itself and clearly doesn"t work according to its own numerical assessment, then it may be time to ask about the by-products of that campaign. Sometimes nothing is better than something. Sometimes Safety does more harm than good.
Recently there were two young boys who fell off rocks at a busy Adelaide beach. A few weeks later a woman"s body was found in exactly the same place. As tragic and sad as this is, it is of interest how the public and Safety responded to the tragedy and the assumptions that are made about risk and people. For Safety, the rocks are the hazard, we must manage the hazard, name the hazard and control the hazard. Good olde Safety to the rescue, hazards and controls. But the hazard can"t be moved, the beach can"t be banned, people can"t be controlled, the beach can"t be fenced, the risk cannot be eliminated, kids love fun, we can"t afford "fun" police on the beat and obviously people don"t know the risks associated with climbing on rocks. I know let"s put up a sign "these rocks are dangerous". Ah, relief, we have been seen to have done something. I wonder what the by-products of that "something" is?
Semiosis defines the process of making meaning as mediated by signs and the interpretation and perception of those signs. If we make signs meaningless, we do more harm than good. If someone desires "zero harm" then why would they do things that produce more psychological and cultural harm than good?
(more at the link above)
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