Signs & signals to keep people safe

Travelling to and from work you see many signs and signals to warn and inform drivers, but when you arrive in the workplace are you as familiar with the signs around the building and what they mean?

There are four main categories:

General danger
Mandatoryrequirements
Prohibition
Information (& direction)

General danger

General danger  Yellow triangle with black edge.
General danger Yellow triangle with black edge.

The legislation relating to all health and safety signs and signals is The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. They cover a variety of ways of communicating health and safety information including:

  • The use of illuminated signs
  • Hand signals and audible signals (e.g. alarms)
  • Spoken communication
  • Marking pipework containing dangerous substances.

Signs must be provided where there is a risk that has not been avoided or controlled in any other way, such as engineering controls and safe systems of work. Signs aren’t required where they would not reduce the risk or where the risk is not significant. Road traffic signs are needed where traffic requires regulating for safety. The employer has a duty to maintain the signs and to ensure that all employees understand the sign and what they must do to comply with it.

Mandatory
Mandatory requirements Circular with a blue background and explanatory icon covering at least 50% of area.
Hand signals

When machinery is in use the noise levels can make talking, or even shouting, an unreliable method of communication, so there are hand signals that should be used for handling and directing vehicles. These are included in the Regulations.

Alarms

Fire alarms need to comply with the BS5839-01:2002 (recently updated) code of practice for system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance.

Prohibition The key elements are a circular shape with a red surround and a diagonal red bar. The black icon indicates what is prohibited.
Prohibition The key elements are a circular shape with a red surround and a diagonal red bar. The black icon indicates what is prohibited.

Information (and direction)
Information (and direction)  These must be green and white and must include a pictogram and arrow as a minimum.
Information (and direction) These must be green and white and must include a pictogram and arrow as a minimum.
Hazardous and dangerous substances

Any pipework containing dangerous substances must be marked at sampling and discharge points.

Any container of a hazardous or dangerous substance must be appropriately marked and there are a range of square signs with a black icon on an orange background that specify the contents of such containers.

If your workplace has risks that people need to be aware of or there is a need to communicate information it’s important that the appropriate signs are in place. Even more important is that everyone understands signs and signals that may be used.

Hazardous and dangerous substances