Health & Safety Signs: What do I need to know?

By July 3, 2019 Health & Safety

Firstly, what is health and safety signage?

A health and safety sign is officially defined as a sign which informs and provides direction about aspects of health and safety in the work environment. They form part of the measures to control risk at work and keep workers safe. These safety communications can be via signboards, colours, illuminated signs or acoustic or verbal communication. Hand signals, moving and positioning arms and hands in a recognised signal are also included.

There are a variety of types of signage which routinely cover:

  •  Prohibition – forbidding specific behaviours or actions that can cause or increase the danger.
  •  Warning – denoting hazards or dangers.
  •  Mandatory – signage instructing on a specific behaviour e.g PPE signage directing the wearing of eye protection.
  •  Emergency Exit/Escape Routes/First Aid – the clear direction of individuals to escape routes or first aid supplies.
  •  Fire Safety – fire exit signs and fire alarms
  •  First Aid – displaying where first aid kits/eyewash/first aid stations are located

Additionally, there is a legal duty to prominently display a poster or provide leaflets which outline UK health and safety law as it pertains to employees.

Why is it needed?

Health and Safety signage is critical for communicating risk and hazards in busy workspaces where dangers can be overlooked. It is the main way of communicating such information. Displaying safety signs alerts workers and visitors to potential dangers in their environment, giving them the opportunity to take protective action.

Having appropriate signage in your workplace is known to reduce accidents and is covered by robust legislation. People are severely injured and even die in the workplace on an annual basis so correct signage is non-negotiable.

What are the laws that cover site safety and industrial safety signage?

As in most countries, health and safety signage is governed by robust and readily enforceable legislation. In the UK, The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 (free download available here) lay out the design and use of health and safety signs. In addition, British Standard (BS5499) and the EC Safety Signs Directive 92/58/EEC provide a further description, direction and standards for UK safety signs.

Breaching these stringent health and safety regulations is a criminal offence. Enforcement by the relevant authorities can result in significant fines or imprisonment as outlined by the Health and Safety Executive. Action can be taken against companies, individual managers and responsible persons.
Who is responsible?

The management of workplace health and safety, in general, is the responsibility of the employer. It is their duty to ensure that their workers and visitors are in an environment where risks to their health and safety are controlled.

Employers and business owners must assess workplace risks and take action to address them. The appropriate use of signage is part of this. Employers and duty holders who have responsibility for the control and management of the working environment need to ensure they have put up the necessary signage to keep workers safe.

What health and safety signage do I need?

It can be daunting to consider where to start in demonstrating compliance with signage legislation. There are a number of official resources that can direct employers and responsible persons in meeting their requirements for workplace health and safety signage.

The document, safety signs and signals. The Health and Safety Regulations 1996 (Link above). Guidance on Regulations’ published by the Health and Safety Executive provides clear and comprehensive guidance on signage and should be referred to.

Some key points to remember are:

  1. Signage will be needed in areas where even though all relevant safety measures are in place there still remains a risk to worker health and safety.
  2. Your signs should be clear and legible. They should prominently communicate prohibitions, warnings, mandatory actions and direction to fire exits and first aid equipment.
  3. Avoid overuse of signs which may confuse people.
  4. Ensure that workers and others understand the signage displayed and how it relates to them.

Where can I get further advice and guidance and purchase the signage I need?

You may need assistance and advice to ensure that you meet the requirements of health and safety signage law. It is well worth seeking professional health and safety consultancy to ensure all aspects of your signage are appropriate and up to date. A wide variety of health and safety signage is available from on and off-line specialist retailers who can assist you in sourcing the correct products for your premises.

Unlimited Logos have a wealth of experience in supplying such signs for all kinds of sites and businesses and are happy to offer assistance when deciding what signs you may need. We also have a comprehensive catalogue of the most used signs which makes ordering really easy. Contact us – here – for help and advice.


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