Those in the business of safety and security have a huge task at hand even at times where there is no apparent immediate danger …visible, that is. That task is to educate the uneducated and initiate the uninitiated about hidden dangers that lurk in the shadows as we go along our daily tasks, blissfully aware and hopelessly exposed.
Today, man has indeed progressed rapidly in terms of technology. We have evolved, so to speak, at a time when the very concept of science fiction is becoming fiction itself.
Theories that we considered ridiculous and impossible just about two or three decades back, are becoming realities today. Robotics, electronics and digitalization have catapulted us to a point where man and machine appear to be becoming one. Is it not interesting that just as man is prone to disease through viruses, so are computers?
But with technology has come a new breed of killers. Killers who are silent, sustained or sudden - but well hidden.
But first let us dwell upon the more conventional forms of safety alerts.
CONVENTIONAL DANGERS AND AVAILABLE WARNINGS
It is a paradoxical thought that even as newer dangers threaten us, the oldest methods of warning and alerting remain the best in most cases. So the warning sign, the lighted alert signal or the loud poster remain the most effective and visible method of educating masses of immediate dangers.
The concept of images probably goes back to the stone age when language was not a real option. A picture is worth a thousand words because no matter what language you may know and speak, a sign still gets the message across-even to the unlettered.
But signs alone do not always work. Visibility varies as does utility, and so the sign concept evolved too. From hieroglyphics to cave etchings to modern day signboards with garish coloring and finger -in -the – eye loudness, signs and signages have come a long way.
From warnings on wet paint to warnings cautioning about sharp turns on the road to exigency warnings to help people escape from enclosed spaces in times of danger-the concept of signages have hugely evolved. Photoluminescent signs that capture and store light and release the same for the naked eye in pitch darkness is a fantastic concept that has become indispensable in exigency situations where fire or smoke present death threats in real time.
Loudspeakers, sirens and public address systems are also not very modern but yet remain the best first warning methods in crowded places, markets, malls, railway stations and similar crowded locations.
SILENT KILLERS AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
There are many silent killers that dwell within our boundaries like cell tower radiation, exhaust fumes or gutter fumes that claim lives aplenty, even today of our workmen who go to clean gutters and pipelines under our cities. Here too, the first line of defence could be signs.
Signs near cell towers cautioning people with imagery and wording about the dangers of proximity to cell tower radiation. Signs near open manholes cautioning cleaners to wear proper PPE and enter and work with care and also passer by’s of the danger of falling in.
In conclusion it can be said that just as fire drills, equipment checks / upgrades and workshops in fire and industrial safety are vital to educate and train common people as well as professionals in basic safety culture, the addition of alerts and warnings on silent killers and the protective maneuvers to be adopted also need to be added on to such programs. Care needs to be taken that proper signs are installed at ALL danger locations - in local languages in addition to common languages - so that common people are warned in advance and get an opportunity to protect themselves. It is not optional but fundamental to the cause itself.