Motion System Design

Veer on the side of safety

Watch your arm! Don't get caught in that gear! Look out for that pulley!

If words were used to describe images on a new database from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), it would be ones like these. AEM has added an online pictorial database to its website to serve as a resource for industry-recognized safety illustrations. The symbols can be used in the design of equipment safety signs, manuals, and other training materials.

More than 100 black-and-white images are currently in the database, and AEM plans to expand the database with product and process-specific graphics. Available on the association's website,, the pictures are free of charge and are searchable by categories and keywords.

“By increasing the usage of common pictorials, we have a better chance that industry workers — equipment operators, mechanics, electricians, laborers, and others — will increase their awareness of what those pictorials mean,” says Mark Steffen, product safety manager of Caterpillar Inc., and chairman of the AEM Safety Sign Pictorial Committee, which is part of the council overseeing the pictorial database.

The database was created to reduce confusion. Different manufacturers currently use different images to depict the same danger — a hand being crushed by a gear vs. fingers being crushed by a gear, for example.

Images are searchable by body part affected, hazard type (mechanical vs. electrical, for example) and by action (crushing, entanglement, etc.).

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