The Usability and Cognitive Design of Safety Signs

Project: Research

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Safety signs refer to the visually perceptible interfaces and figures with particular meanings that are used to reduce accidents and injuries in industrial undertakings and public areas. Results of recent studies of safety signs indicated that comprehension levels of many safety signs do not reach the ISO 3864-3:2006 and ANSI Z535.3-2002 comprehension criteria, and the effectiveness of many safety signs is low in conveying safety messages. There is thus a need to design safety signs of high usability and effective training programs for reduction the risk of misunderstanding and increasing the level of sign comprehension. This research will examine and improve the usability of safety signs with systematic investigation of the five components of product usability namely, guessability, learnability, experienced user performance, re-usability, and system potential. Instead of adopting the traditional approach of analysing the self-evident sign features like sign color and surround shape, this study will explore the relationships of sign comprehension with cognitive sign features like familiarity, concreteness, complexity, meaningfulness, and semantic distance.To investigate the usability of safety signs and the relationships between usability components and cognitive sign features, three phases of work with human factors experiments using guessing, training, and comprehension tasks will be conducted. The first phase of research work will investigate relationships between the characteristics of prospective-users of safety signs and the guessability of signs, and the effects of design features on sign guessability. The second phase will investigate relationship between sign features and training effectiveness, and the effects of training methods on the training effectiveness. The third, using experienced safety practitioners, will study the effects of user factors and sign features on the comprehensibility, experienced user performance, and re-usability of safety signs. The relationships between usability components and sign feature ratings, and the results of relative importance of different cognitive sign features in different tasks will provide useful ergonomics recommendations for design of highly usable safety signs and training programs.


Project number9041330
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/091/02/11