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What are the 4 types of safety signs?

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Having safety signs in the workplace is essential.

A visible instruction from a safety sign gives clear indication and lessens the likelihood of accidents to employees and non-employees, and therefore creates a safer working environment.

Importantly, having safety signs in your workplace will help you to comply with the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 (the Regulations).

Compulsory signs in the UK workplace:

  • Fire safety
  • Emergency exit
  • Road traffic regulations within the workplace
  • Prohibition

These 4 important safety signs can be broken into categories: Prohibition, Warning, Mandatory and Emergency.

Prohibition

A sign prohibiting behaviour likely to increase or cause danger (e.g. “No access for unauthorised personnel”)

These signs should be used for “Do Not” commands. For example – to indicate that smoking is not allowed in a particular area. In the workplace they should be used to reinforce instructions prohibiting dangerous activities.

Signs prohibiting an activity appear as a circular red band with a single diagonal cross line descending from left to right at a 45 degree angle. The background should be solid white with the imagery indicating the nature of the command in black.

Warning

A sign giving warning of a hazard or danger (e.g. “Danger: High Voltage”)

These signs should be used to make people aware of a nearby danger.

For example, a flammable liquid store.

These signs are required by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 and in specific cases by the Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990.

Signs warning of a particular hazard appear as a black band in the shape of an equilateral triangle. The background within the band should be yellow with the imagery indicating the type of hazard in black, positioned centrally on the sign.

Mandatory

A sign prescribing specific behaviour (e.g. “Personal Protective Equipment Must Be Worn”)

These signs should be used to indicate actions that must be carried out in order to comply with statutory requirements. For example, self-closing fire doors that must be kept closed to comply with the fire risk assessment should be labeled with “FIRE DOOR KEEP SHUT” signs. An area of a construction site where hard hats should be worn should also have appropriate signs at the entry points.

It should be noted that the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 do not apply to mandatory fire instructions but do apply to health and safety mandatory signs where imagery is required. The minimum regulatory requirement is for the sign to display appropriate imagery.

There are no pictograms for fire safety instruction signs and although mandatory in the UK through inclusion in the requirements of workplace fire assessments, such signs are not considered as health and safety signs within these Regulations. Thus the familiar white on blue fire safety mandatory signs using text only will remain in place and will not have to be changed.

Fire instruction notices, are notices which list actions that occupants must carry out in the event of a fire are, by convention, written as white text on a blue background but not in the circular format.

The colours are used to convey the mandatory nature of the instructions but because of the amount of text normally needed, a rectangular format is used.

The general mandatory sign of a white exclamation mark on a blue circle may be used in conjunction with a fire instructions notice.

Signs indicating mandatory requirements consist of a blue circle with the pictogram or text in white positioned centrally.

Emergency

A sign giving information on emergency exits, first aid, or rescue facilities (e.g. “Emergency Exit”)

These signs should be used to indicate escape routes, emergency exits and first aid equipment.

Safe condition signs appear as a green rectangle or square with the imagery or text in white positioned centrally. In the same way as for mandatory signs some UK fire safety signs in this category are not required by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996.

For example “PUSH BAR TO OPEN” is not required to comply and there is no imagery with that meaning.

Colour / Meaning or purpose / Instruction and information

  • Red

    • Prohibition sign
    • Dangerous behaviour; stop; shutdown; evacuate
  • Yellow / Amber

    • Warning sign
    • Be careful; take precautions; examine
  • Blue

    • Mandatory sign
    • Specific behaviour or action; wear protective equipment
  • Green

    • Emergency escape / First-aid sign
    • Doors; exits; escape routes; equipment and facilities

Breaching these strict health and safety regulations is a criminal offence. Enforcement by the relevant authorities can result in serious fines or imprisonment as outlined by the Health and Safety Executive.

Action can be taken against companies, individual managers and responsible persons.

Safety signs lessen the likelihood of accidents to employees and non-employees, and therefore creates a safer working environment.

If you feel like you need assistance complying with the regulations, we can provide more information and the signs necessary to make your workplace compliant, and safer.

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