Heather Carll, of Maine Medical Center’s (MMC) Environmental Services (EVS) department, manages a team that comprises many employees who are non-native English speakers. Heather was concerned they might not understand the written safety labels on bottles that contain strong disinfectants and other chemicals they use in their daily work. She came up with a simple, effective solution: add pictograms to the bottles.

Pictograms are black, white and red images commonly found in industries where safety is paramount. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees safety in the workplace, requires proper labeling on all chemical bottles, but the pictograms add an extra layer of protection for anyone who may not comprehend the lengthy warnings. They’re large and easy to see at a glance. The images convey messages such as “corrosive” or “irritant,” so employees know how to handle the chemicals safely and know what to do if there’s a spill or skin contact. Taj Williams, EVS training supervisor, hosts a training session for staff where they learn to associate each pictogram with its designated meaning.

Heather and Taj say the project has been a success. Employees feel more confident that they know which disinfectants need careful handling and feel safer using chemicals that are necessary for their work. Heather and Taj have brought the pictogram solution to other MMC campuses, including Brighton Medical Center, Scarborough Surgery Center and 100 Western Avenue.

“It was a good idea to put the pictograms on the bottles because we are supposed to work safely, and now I can protect myself, because I can see the danger of what can happen.”

– Luisa Mbembe, Environmental Services Worker

Sample pictogram sticker on a container of Hyperfect & Contact 365 solutions
Close-up view of a hazard sticker indicating a chemical that can burn or injure surfaces and skin

Next Steps

The team hopes to continue sharing the pictogram project with more healthcare facilities in the MaineHealth system.

Collaborators

  • Taj Williams, Training Supervisor
  • Heather Carll, Training, Systems, & Offsite Operations Manager
  • Julia Afonso, Training Team Leader