Perceptions of implied hazard for visual and auditory alerting signals

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-352
Journal / PublicationSafety Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


Visual and auditory alerts are increasingly important and have many applications, particularly in the presentation of hazard information in transportation and many industrial systems. This paper is concerned with the factors that govern the relative effectiveness of alerting signals involving various combinations of visual and auditory signals. The visual variables were colour, flash rate, and flash mode, combined with or without an auditory alarm. It was found that the subjects associated different levels of hazard with different alerting light colours, flash rates, flashing modes, and with combinations of auditory and visual alerts. A red flashing light was perceived as the most effective hazard warning colour, with yellow and blue warning lights indicative of less hazardous situations. The faster the flash rate, the greater is the hazard perceived. A flash rate of 60 fpm (flashes per minute) was not as effective as the rates of 180 and 240 fpm, and 240 fpm was the most effective. This implies that hazard warning signal should flash at well above 60 fpm. Having a breakup in the flashing pattern so as to provide a double or triple flash mode also increases the effectiveness of the signal. There were significant interactions between the alert variables used. The difference in perceived hazard levels for the colours blue and yellow were statistically non significant, but blue was more effective in conveying hazard message than yellow at the high flash rates. When accompanied with auditory alarms, blue and yellow were perceived to convey the same perception level of hazard as red without auditory alarms. The effect of colour on perceived hazard was also found to vary with flash mode. As compared to either visual signal alone or a visual signal with other types of acoustic alarms, a siren type of auditory alarm was found more effective for eliciting perception of hazards. There was evidence that presenting alerting signal in triple-flash mode and at high flash rate could be annoying and might not help improving hazard awareness. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • Auditory alerting signal, Colour, Flashing, Hazard, Visual alerting signal