Warnings

Warnings are used when a hazard cannot be eliminated or guarded, meaning it is up to the operator to take proper actions to prevent injury. Warnings are also used when hazards are guarded, both to inform the operator and to provide a reason not to remove a guard or take actions that could result in injury. Additionally, warnings educate the operator about proper procedures and additional hazards that a machine operator could encounter during the course of operation; for example, an operator of a machine that can be raised to considerable heights would be warned to stay away from overhead power lines.

Warnings are found both on the machine itself, in the form of safety signs, and in the operator's manual, in the form of safety signs and additional text. Safety signs, sometimes called "warning labels," should follow ASAE standards that spells out the design, format, wording, colors, placement, and pictorials for such signs. Properly designed safety signs follow a strict protocol, using a standardized safety alert symbol, a standard "signal word" that "designates a degree or level of hazard seriousness," and a message text panel. They may optionally contain a pictorial panel to overcome language barriers, and example pictorials are provided in the standard to improve consistency across the industry (7).

Three signal words, which appear boldly at the top of a safety sign, have been standardized and are not used indiscriminately. The three words, standard colors, and definitions are as follows:

DANGER: Printed in white letters on a red background, this "indicates an imminently hazardous situation that, if not avoided, will result in death or serious injury. This signal word is to be limited to the most extreme situations, typically for machine components that, for functional purposes, cannot be guarded" (7). WARNING: Printed in black letters on an orange background, this "indicates a potentially hazardous situation that, if not avoided, could result in death or serious injury, and includes hazards that are exposed when guards are removed. It may also be used to alert against unsafe practices" (7). CAUTION: Printed in black letters on a yellow background, this "indicates a potentially hazardous situation that, if not avoided, may result in minor or moderate injury. It may also be used to alert against unsafe practices" (7).

Safety signs on machines may fade or be damaged over time. Older machines may lack safety signs or have signs that do not follow current standards. Older machines may have operator's manuals with less safety information than would be currently provided. Many operators of older machines purchased second-hand do not have the operator's manual. A secure location for the operator manual is now often provided right on the machine to minimize the chance of loss and promote keeping it with the machine at resale.

Replacement safety signs and operator's manuals may be available from the manufacturer, but given the age of many machines and the disappearance of companies, such signs and manuals may be difficult if not impossible to locate. Due to the interest in restoring older tractors, there are independent suppliers of manuals and some safety signs for old tractors and other machines.

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