Investigation of guessability of industrial safety signs : Effects of prospective-user factors and cognitive sign features

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-697
Journal / PublicationInternational Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


This study investigated the effects of prospective-user factors and five cognitive sign features on guessability of safety signs. Sixty Hong Kong Chinese subjects guessed the meanings and rated the sign features of 63 Mainland China safety signs. The prospective-user factors of working or site visit experience at laboratory or construction site, awareness of safety signs in daily life, injury experience due to ignorance of safety signs, and driving experience had significant effects on guessing performance. However, gender, Mainland China visit experience, and family member working at laboratory or construction site had no influence on guessing performance. The guessability scores varied with the five cognitive sign features viz. familiarity, concreteness, simplicity, meaningfulness, and semantic closeness. The guessability of safety signs was better when the signs were familiar, concrete, simple and meaningful and when the signs were associated with the underlying concepts. Overall, the findings showed that prospective-user factors and cognitive sign features are involved in effective communication of safety sign messages. Relevance to industry: Posting of safety signs is a possible safety precaution measure that can be taken to attempt to reduce accidents and injuries in industrial undertakings. The findings of this study provide useful information for designing more user-friendly safety signs which could act as a reference for interface designers to develop more user-friendly safety signs in the future. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Research Area(s)

  • Cognitive sign features, Guessability, Safety signs, Usability, User factors