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Health & Safety Signs Explained

If you’re an employer or work within HR, you’ll understand the importance of health and safety in the workplace. As an employer, you are responsible for the welfare of all your employees, guests and visitors. The right health and safety signs help you with this responsibility, providing clear and concise information at all times. It is very important that the right health and safety signs be used in the right environments. Failure to identify and flag a specific hazard could result in damage to property, injury to employees or even death. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about health and safety signs to protect your business fully.

What are health and safety signs?

In short, it is a sign that provides information, instruction or guidance about health and safety in the workplace. There are a number of different types, of which we will discuss in more detail in this guide. These signs form an essential role in specific laws and legislations set in place to protect employees. Employers across the UK are responsible for making sure the relevant information is available to keep everybody safe or risk large fines/legal action.

What legislation exists around health and safety signs?

There are a number of laws and current legislations that cover health and safety signs which you should be aware of. We have explained them in more detail below.

BS5499

Covering all safety warning signs, including fire safety signs, BS5499 is a legislation that sign manufacturers must consider. It dictates the colours and design format that each sign should take, depending on its purpose. Below are some examples:

  • Prohibition signs must feature a black graphical symbol, where applicable, on a white circle. A diagonal red bar must run through the image to prohibit the action depicted.
  • Warning Signs must feature a black graphical symbol on a yellow triangle with a strong black border to give warning of potential risks.
  • Safe Condition signs or those indicating exit routes during an emergency must visually indicate this using green and white designs.

In addition, Part 4 of BS5499 is a section dedicated to escape route signs. It dictates the correct application and positioning which is deemed just as important as the sign style itself. More information about this legislation can be found here.

Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996

These regulations are designed for employers and dutyholders. It states that safety signs and signals are required where there is a significant risk to the health and safety of employees and others. Information given includes the fact that signs must be clear and legible, used to identify actions that are prohibited along with safeguards that need to be followed, hazards and to provide direction toward fire exits/equipment.

One of the key points to take away from this regulation is to avoid using too many signs. This can lead to confusion. A clear risk assessment should be undertaken to establish where the necessary hazards and risks are along with the best way to signpost them. More information about these regulations can be found here.

Safety Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (Chapter 1 of Part 7: Safety Signs at Places of Work).

Aimed at health & safety practitioners and employers alike, this regulation also covers the layout and design of safety signs. It includes information such as the traffic light system for colours (red for prohibition, yellow for caution, green for positive action), the relevant shapes (discs for prohibition and instruction, triangles for warnings and squares/rectangles for emergency and informative signs) and the fact that text should not be incorporated on signboards. These regulations run alongside BS5499. More information about these regulations can be found here.

What makes up a safety sign?

There are ordinarily four main components of a safety sign that help the reader understand the information being shared. These are:

  1. Colour
  2. Shape
  3. Pictogram
  4. Text

It is the combination of 3 or 4 of these features that allows us to clearly understand the message being given. This is why there are specific legislations in place to unify these – in an attempt to unify and ensure universal understanding across the board.

What are the 5 different types of safety sign?

Emergency Escape Signs (also known as Safe Condition Signs)

These signs provide information about escape routes and emergency exits. Those that offer direction towards first aid or rescue facilities also fall under this remit and are known as ‘First Aid Signs’. Both of these are required to be green with a white pictogram and writing. They indicate a behaviour, action or route that leads to safety.

Fire Safety Signs

As the name suggestions, these provide information on escape routes and exits in the event of a fire. They identify fire fighting equipment and information about fire marshals in the building.

Mandatory Signs

These signs inform viewers about specific actions and behaviours that should be followed to minimise risk. For example, PPE signs fall under this remit and tell you what protective wear needs to be worn to reduce injury. They are required to have a white safety symbol on a blue background.

Prohibition Signs

Again, as the name suggests, these signs prohibit behaviours that are likely to cause risk to others. It tells you what not to do, an example being smoking in specific areas around a workplace. These signs can be used in all working environments and protect the safety of your business and employees. In general, they have a black safety symbol in a red circle with a diagonal line running through.

Warning Signs

These signs give warning about a potential risk to health and safety. They indicate that the user should take care around a specific hazard or danger such an electrical warning signs. In other documentation, you may see them referred to as caution or hazard signs. They normally feature a black safety pictogram in a yellow triangle with a thick black border.

What does colour mean in health and safety signs?

Another key factor to pay attention to with health and safety signs is colour. This is used to quickly and effectively distinguish between the type of information being given. There are 4 main colours regularly used in this form of signage.

Red

Red signs are normally prohibitory and draw people’s attention to dangerous situations. You will normally notice that they are round with a diagonal line passing through a black pictogram image.

Yellow or Amber

These signs offer a warning, asking users to take precautions around a specific hazard. They are regularly seen in environments that work with hazardous chemicals and are also known as ‘hazard signs’.

Blue

Blue signs normally fall under the mandatory sign category. They dictate a specific behaviour that must be undertaken to avoid injury from specific risks. Normally, they will be circular with a white pictogram at the centre.

Green

These signs give information which highlights safety or shows the route towards an exit, first aid areas or stations. They are normally rectangular in shape with white images and sometimes feature text for additional clarification.

There are a great many different health and safety signs to consider when it comes to adequately protecting your workplace. From Fire Safety Signs through to Construction Site SignsGeneral Safety Signs and First Aid Signs, it can be challenging to know which set up you need. We have a selection of guides available here at Lasting Impressions that are designed to help. These include our comprehensive look at UK Fire Exit Regulations which goes into detail around safety signs specifically used for fire exits. We are also proud of our wealth of knowledge here at Lasting Impressions. With over 40 years experience, we have become experts in the world of safety signs for corporate needs.

If you have any questions about our comprehensive range of safety signs, get in touch today. Our friendly team will help guide you towards the right sign option for your business.