Workplace: Signs are confusing – that’s why all the tarpaulins go tumbling off

From technical to painless, that’s why signs everywhere are temporary

I got a pretty good idea of how confusing it is for people to deal with signs in general when I started to work in construction. We’re all fans of the idea of signs in that they get different people excited, but when it comes to them being used in real life they’re not nearly as simple or obvious as they are in a shop or on the roadside.

Signs can all be programmed and plotted in one direction, including where the next shift starts and ends so that the minutiae of that route is visible. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that signs could be bad sign-standers in the first place.

Even in government departments there’s huge confusion about when signs should be removed, when they should be replaced, and how often they should be checked.

Yes, there are 20 permanent signs here. Yes, it’s a council duty to stop the knock-on effect that contractors’ eyeshades and safety tapes have from being seen every time you go by. But occasionally a tarpaulin or extra weatherproofing goes tumbling off, someone puts up the slogan for a TV ad or someone with a new sign decides it’s a lovely idea to reach the people by boat down the channel.

On day four, when I’m the only person in this office with a thorough understanding of the signs, I begin to feel as defeated as the long-suffering holidaymaker trying to navigate the workmen on the neighbouring sites.

Nothing seems to be working – there’s a gaping hole in the sign at the entrance to the roof, a fuse box which has somehow given way, the lift cylinder is missing its spring safety ring. “All is well,” says someone from the council, putting on his finest upbeat face. A block of it will be in place in a few days. I ask, loudly, why people can’t just use a more direct route? “We ask that they pay attention to signage,” someone responds with an air of restraint and hope.

A handwritten note here says that we can all come for drinks for £3.50 between 1pm and 2pm on Tuesday. “Hot drinks,” they write. I’m not sure what anyone can do about that except find a new job.

• Do you have a story to tell about working in a sign shop? Email it to [email protected].

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