The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) has completed phase one of a database of “industry recognized” pictorial illustrations for voluntary use in the design of equipment safety signs, manuals and other training materials.
AEM developed this database to promote greater consistency and clarity among pictorial images so they are more recognizable by industry workers, thus enhancing safety. The pictorials are offered free of charge to anyone, saving manufacturers and others the time and cost of developing their own graphics.
The database can be easily accessed via the association’s Web site and is searchable by categories and keywords. It currently includes approximately 100 pictorials that are common to many industry segments and product lines, and covers both hazard identification and hazard avoidance.
“By increasing the usage of common pictorials, we have a better chance that industry workers — equipment operators, mechanics, electricians, laborers and others — will increase their awareness of, and better understand, what those pictorials mean,” stated Mark Steffen, product safety manager of Caterpillar Inc., and chairman of the AEM Safety Sign Pictorial Committee which is part of the Technical and Safety Council overseeing the pictorial database.
The AEM pictorial database is meant to be a dynamic resource, and the association invites input from database users and others with an interest in safety-related pictorials. The association plans to expand the database with product- and process-specific graphics.
Reducing Confusion, Increasing Clarity
AEM’s Technical and Safety Council undertook development of the database at the request of association members. All manufacturers have a common interest in promoting safe operation of their equipment, but there is currently an array of images being used to convey similar hazard identification/avoidance messages.
For a hand-crush hazard, for example, one manufacturer might depict a whole hand being crushed, while another manufacturer might choose to show several fingers being crushed.
“What we tried to achieve with the initial set-up of this database is to provide common pictorials that safety professionals can use, no matter the type of equipment or even industry,” stated Steffen.
AEM formed the pictorial-development committee in 2004. It consists of more than two dozen association member company representatives, who discussed and formulated the plan for the database. Then, all members of AEM’s product-oriented groups were solicited to provide pictorials. A task force of several member company safety experts was then formed to review the “hundreds and hundreds of pictorials” the committee collected, Steffen said.
Gregg Austin, product safety manager of Terex Corporation, served in a leadership role on the committee. He explained that the task force looked carefully at all the submissions, grouped similar ones together and then looked for commonality to recommend the graphics ultimately chosen. Once the initial review was complete, the task force submitted its selections to the larger committee for final approval.
Austin cited the ISO 7000 international standard as an example of AEM’s goal for the pictorial database (although AEM is not advocating a standard for pictorials). ISO 7000 sets international standards for control and display symbols on equipment ranging from photocopiers and fitness equipment to on-highway and off-highway vehicles. Thus, a high-beam symbol on a car should be identical to the high-beam symbol for farm tractors, earthmoving machines and other types of off-road equipment.
“This is the kind of consistency AEM seeks to accomplish in the area of descriptive safety pictorials,” Austin said.
Task force members are familiar with national and international technical standards and are involved in their company pictorial development process. While their backgrounds and knowledge helped throughout the review process, the locating, identifying and cross-referencing of pictorial material from multiple industry segments and product lines was a time-consuming process.
“We commend all association member company personnel involved in the pictorial database project. Their commitment and dedication have made this valuable industry resource possible,” stated Dan Moss, AEM assistant director of Standards and Safety Services.
Future Plans to Expand Database Content
Russ Hutchison, AEM director of Technical and Safety Services, explained that the pictorial database will expand beyond its current size as it adds product-specific images, and that it may include industries other than those represented by AEM.
For example, most of the association’s members manufacture mobile equipment, but stationary machinery used in factories and elsewhere employs similar safety messages, which may also benefit from greater pictorial consistency.
“We want to get relevant graphics into the hands of as many people as possible to promote consistency of pictorials. Widespread use can only benefit us all,” Hutchison noted.
Moss said that the pictorial database has generated a high level of enthusiasm among AEM members as well as other companies and organizations.
“Many people told us they wished they had had access to such a resource a long time ago, and that the database was filling a real need,” Moss said.
To extend the utility of the database, AEM is working with other industry groups and soliciting their ideas, suggestions and participation. Several organizations have already expressed interest in offering graphics for possible inclusion.
AEM provides links for visitors to the online pictorial database to respond with questions, comments and recommendations. Visitors also can submit for consideration graphics that are not already included in the database. To prevent the material from growing unwieldy, AEM will continue to screen submissions and apply a “best-practices” approach to new additions.
AEM Pictorial Database Specifics
The database is available at http://pictorials.aem.org. with pictorials downloadable in .eps and .dxf format. EPS images were saved in Adobe Illustrator 7.0; and DXF images were saved in AutoCAD 13. All pictorials can be imported into a variety of graphics programs and are fully scalable to whatever size is desired by the user.
All images are in black and white. Red color, used primarily for fire and prohibitions, is shown in a few of the database pictorials, but use of the red color would be at the discretion of the user. Images are searchable in multiple ways: by body area (arm, body, ears, eyes, head, etc.); by hazard type (chemical, electrical, mechanical, thermal, etc.); and by action (burning, crushing, entanglement, explosion, flying object, etc.), as well as by keywords.
AEM stresses that the goal of the pictorials project is to develop greater consistency; it is not to establish standards or regulations. Also, just as AEM relies on experts to screen submissions, the association notes that it is equally important for safety message designers who use the pictorial database to have a solid background in equipment safety.
Although the pictorials are editable, AEM encourages designers to use them as much as possible “as is” to present a consistent look, thus aiding in understanding. Designers also are advised to consult all applicable laws, regulations and standards to assure proper compliance.
The database covers only the pictorial aspect of safety signs and other safety materials; it does not cover text or other facets of safety messaging, nor is it intended to promote or endorse any particular format of safety sign or message.
For more information, call 414/298-4149 or visit www.aem.org.
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