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Can visual literacy prevent workplace injuries?

Accidents at work are unfortunately not uncommon across New York City. Whether due to falls from elevated surfaces, falling debris, heavy machinery, defective products or more, those working in construction, transportation, warehousing and more are particularly at risk.

With rising figures on serious and fatal injuries at work, employers across both New York and the country have experimented with different solutions and approaches to keep workers safe. One such approach, according to the National Safety Council, explores “visual literacy” as a method to train workers to identify and guard against workplace injuries.

What is visual literacy?

The goal of visual literacy is to train workers to identify small details that they may have otherwise overlooked. Research conducted by the Campbell Institute in Illinois gives the example of a worker in a warehouse who stands in the same position every day and completes the same tasks. Due to the routine, they may fail to see a potential hazard that could cause harm to the worker or other colleagues.

By training workers on visual literacy, employers can work to reduce workplace accidents by teaching workers to look for hazardous conditions or other safety issues. According to the institute, after receiving training on visual literacy, 225 employees at a manufacturing site identified 132 safety issues at work.

Consuming an overload of visual information

According to the institute’s director, humans consume the majority of their information visually. Because of this overload of visual information, people tend to gloss over smaller details and instead focus on obvious, larger items. This can lead to the unconscious ignorance of details that could lead to a serious injury in the workplace.

After completing visual literacy training, Claims Journal reports that workers at the manufacturing site identified 17 slip and fall hazards and nine machine hazards in the workplace, including:

  • Worn-down treading on stairs
  • A missing handrail on a staircase
  • Worn, sharp edges on a fail-safe to stop an engine

While visual literacy is traditionally associated as an art education process, translating it into industries with higher risks for workplace injuries can benefit everyone. Particularly in workplaces with numerous hazards at any given turn, like a factory or construction site, training workers to look for and identify both obvious and obscure dangers can help to keep everyone safe.

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