What Safety Signs Do I Need?
In order to provide some guidance on this question, in this article we will cover the seven most common safety signs and where to use them.
Did you know that legislation requires safety signs are used where the risk cannot be reduced any other way?
However, if safety signs will not help to reduce the risk or the risk is insignificant then there is no obligation to use them. This can lead to confusion for employers over where a sign is necessary and where it is not. To add further to this uncertainty, the regulations do not require employers to supply signs for the benefit of non-employees such as visitors which often comes as a surprise to businesses. The best way to determine what signs are necessary is to carry out a risk assessment of the workplace.
1. UK Health and Safety Legislation Poster
It is a legal requirement to display this notice in every workplace. If this is not practical then the health and safety legislation leaflets should be distributed to all employees.
2. Fire Notices
Fire action notices should clearly show the action that needs to be taken in the event of a fire. They give information to both the person discovering the fire and the occupants of the premises who hear the fire alarm. The instruction should be clear and succinct and include information such as who should raise the alarm, tackling the fire and evacuation procedures.
There are standard formats for such notices that can be obtained from sign suppliers. They should be located on noticeboards in communal areas or in the case of premises such as hotels, also on the back of bedroom doors.
3. Fire Exit and Emergency Escape Signs
These are used to mark emergency routes and exits in the event of a fire or other incident. They should be white markings on a green background. The fire exit sign should be shown above the exit door. If the fire exit sign itself is not visible from all work areas, then it should be supplemented by the use of directional signs that indicate the direction to the fire exit.
It is important to note that it is not acceptable to use a directional arrow sign on its own, it must be accompanied by either the words “fire exit” or a fire exit symbol. If natural light levels are low or there may be some difficulty in seeing the sign in the event of an emergency, then additional illumination of the sign will be required.
4. First Aid Signs
A first aid sign shows a white cross on a green background. They should be located next to first aid box locations in order that the box may be quickly accessed in the event of an emergency. A useful addition to the first aid sign is a list of the company’s first aiders and if appropriate, contact details.
5. No Smoking Signs
July 2007 saw a total smoking ban in all enclosed public places, workplaces and certain vehicles in the UK. The smoke-free legislation means it is an offence not to display the appropriate No Smoking Signs, resulting in fines up to £1000. The ban has since been extended to cover the use of electronic cigarettes. Signs must be displayed at every entrance to smoke-free premises and meet the following minimum requirements:
- Be a minimum of A5 in the area (210mm x 148mm).
- Display the international no-smoking symbol at least 70mm in diameter.
- Carry the following words in characters that can be easily read: ‘No smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises.
6. Overhead Obstacles and Steps
Many workplaces have localised hazards such as low doorways or steps in inappropriate places that are trip hazards. In many instances, it is not reasonably practicable to remove the hazard, so signs may be used to make employees aware of their presence. Warning signs should be black symbols or written on a yellow background. The sign should be located adjacent to the hazard in a position that is clearly visible to a person approaching the hazard. Yellow and black diagonal stripes may also be used along the edges of doorways or raised platforms to indicate danger.
7. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
These signs show the type of PPE that should be used in a certain work area. They are white symbols on a blue background indicating that it is a mandatory requirement to wear the PPE. The signs should show the type of PPE that should be worn and where it should be worn. The signs should be sufficiently large and clear, ideally positioned at entrances to the area and again within the work area. Standard symbols should be used wherever possible, although the law does make allowances for minor deviations to suit circumstances.
What the Law Says
European Directive 92/58/EEC was established to standardise health and safety signs across Europe. This was translated into UK law by the implementation of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1995.
These regulations cover the standard types of signs, where they should be used and also have a special section on fire signs.