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Are you Legally Obligated to have Safety Signs?

Whether you are legally obligated to display safety signs will depend on the nature of your business and the level of risk that it presents. To determine what safety signs your business will need, it is important that you undertake a detailed risk assessment to properly highlight any hazards in the workplace. As a minimum, every place of work should display fire safety signs under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This is because visitors and employees need to know the location of emergency exits and escape routes in the event of an emergency. Furthermore, businesses should also display a ‘No Smoking’ sign under the Smoke-Free (Premises and Enforcement) Regulations 2006. Best practice would suggest that you also clearly display first aid signs and CCTV in operation signs where it is used.

As a general rule, the higher the risk in the workplace, the more signs will need to be displayed. A high-risk business would need to display signs to notify employees and visitors of the dangers as they move their way around a building. This could, for example, be in a factory that manufactures goods, a laboratory or an industrial site that handles chemicals.

Business owners should be fully aware of the risks that are present on their premises and the signs that you need will become apparent as you complete the risk assessment. These assessments should take place on a regular basis because nothing remains the same forever; working practices change, chemicals that you handle could become more or less risky or you could add a new piece of equipment to your existing building that requires caution.

You are not legally obliged to display a sign unless it goes some way to helping reduce the risk or the risk is negligible. As a result, this can sometimes lead to confusion as to whether a sign is needed or not. Signs that are recommended include those outlined above as well as a UK Health and Safety Legislation Poster. Current guidelines for the use of safety signs are covered by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1995.

There are four types of signs, prohibition and fire, mandatory, caution and safe condition. It will be up to the business owner to determine which ones are most applicable and how risky the workplace is. Current guidance from the Health and Safety Executive provides comprehensive information on what signs you need to display depending on your business and all organisations should be familiar with these.