Safety sign design regulations
Signs are essential to workplace health and safety. In moments of tension, such as emergencies, it can be hard to immediately recall instructions and protocol. Signs provide a clear reminder of how to act in order to stay safe.
Effective signs help workplaces to comply with The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, as well as The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in England and Wales and the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 in Scotland.
There are clear guidelines set out by The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 for the safe and effective use of safety signs.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that signs are in place to reduce risk where that risk cannot be removed or controlled by other methods. The guidance is very clear that signs are not a substitute for other methods; if it is possible to reduce or control risk in another way, employers should do this.
What colour sign should a first aid kit have? Are all warning signs red? Do fire escapes have to use the same pictogram?
In the UK, there are 5 common types of signboards that must have specific features as prescribed by regulations. Signboards are described by the HSE as providing “information or instructions by a combination of shape, colour and a symbol or pictogram”. Workplaces must adhere to the features of different types of signs listed in The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 in the following ways:
The sign must have the correct percentage of colour
The sign must be the shape described
The sign should use pictograms or symbols from the Regulations. Where there is not a suitable pictogram, you can design your own. However, it must be simple and only contain the necessary information
If supplementary text is used, the language must be appropriate to the sign. For example, mandatory signs would need to use the word “must” in their instructions, as opposed to “may” or “should”.
This type of sign prohibits behaviour that is likely to cause or increase danger. It might inform viewers of dangerous behaviour or emergency cut-our devices, or it could instruct readers to stop.
Design: black pictogram on white background, red edging and diagonal line, with the red parts taking up at least 35% of the sign.
This type of sign warns of a hazard or danger. It might instruct viewers to be careful, take precautions or examine.
Design: black pictogram on yellow background, and black edging, with the yellow parts taking up at least 50% of the sign.
This type of sign prescribes specific behaviour or action.
Design: white pictogram on blue background, with the blue parts taking up at least 50% of the sign.
This type of sign provides information on emergency exits, first aid or rescue facilities.
Shape: square or rectangular
Design: white pictogram on green background, with the green parts taking up at least 50% of the sign.
This type of sign provides information on the location of fire-fighting equipment, such as a fire hose, fire extinguisher or emergency fire telephone.
Shape: square or rectangular
Design: white pictogram on red background, with the red parts taking up at least 50% of the sign.
Chemical labelling and packaging
This type of sign provides information on a vessel containing hazardous chemical substances or mixtures. It must be affixed to the outside of any containers, tanks and vessels containing such substances, as well as any pipes that carry these substances. It is advised that these labels or signs are affixed in places where employees are most likely to come into contact with the hazardous substance, such as at drain valves or filling points. If rooms, areas or enclosures contain large quantities of hazardous substances, a suitable warning sign should be affixed in a way that makes it visible from outside of the area.
These signs do not appear in The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, but instead in Annex V to the CLP Regulation. They can be found on the HSE’s chemical classification page and, importantly, workplaces are not allowed to create new versions of these signs. However, employers may:
Employers may need to highlight obstacles or dangerous locations, such as the edge of a raised platform or an area where objects may fall. If so, they should use either red and white or yellow and black striped tape with the following stipulations:
The stripes must be at an angle of 45 degrees
The stripes must be, more or less, of equal size.
It is likely that most places will need a first aid sign, although it is not necessarily mandatory in the UK. The HSE states that, as a minimum, workplaces must have a suitably stocked first aid kit, an appointed person and information for all employees giving details of first aid arrangements. It is for this final point that a first aid sign could be beneficial, ensuring first aid equipment is identifiable and accessible in an emergency.
However, specific requirements will depend on a workplace’s first aid needs assessment. In larger workplaces, for example, multiple first aid kits may be required and, therefore, signs identifying the way to the closest would support the speedy provision of first aid.
Health and safety posters serve many functions: information, instruction, clarification and reminders.
By law, employers must either display the HSE-approved law poster or provide employees with the equivalent leaflet. The poster provides health and safety information in an accessible style to encourage employees to read and understand the content. If the poster is displayed, it must be in a prominent location on all business sites in an area that is accessed by employees. Multiple posters may be required to achieve this.
Other than the HSE-approved law poster, the requirement to provide first aid, health and safety posters is dependent on a workplace’s risk assessment. In a warehouse, for example, the risk assessment may identify a high risk of eye contamination from packaging dust. Although steps will be taken to reduce this risk, providing a First Aid for Eyes poster next to the eye wash kit ensures that employees will take the correct action.
In workplaces where there is no qualified first aider (under 25 employees in a low-risk environment or under 5 employees in a high-risk environment), providing posters to support the appointed person is crucial. Posters can provide even qualified first aiders with the peace of mind and presence to give effective first aid in an emergency and so should not be overlooked by any workplace. Placing an AED Defibrillation and CPR poster next to an AED can encourage responders to provide first aid even if they lack confidence and can ultimately save lives.
In addition to first aid posters, health and safety posters can provide useful reminders to employees of how to look after themselves. Posters such as Health and Safety for Computer Operators, Stress Management or Safe Manual Handling can help employees to feel supported and remind them of important health and safety practices.
As with signage, it is important not to flood workplaces with posters, as they can become ineffective and overwhelming. Completing a detailed risk assessment will support in identifying the most important posters for your workplace’s needs.
Equally, putting a poster up is not an adequate safety measure on its own. Of course, you will have done all that you can to limit risks but, in addition to this, employees should be spoken to about the risks of the workplace. First aid, health and safety signs and posters should be identified and spoken about, with any uncertainties being cleared up in advance. This kind of discussion can also provide a useful opportunity for employees to give feedback and contribute to improving health and safety at work.
Make sure you understand exactly what your workplace needs and that you have the necessary first aid kits and equipment to provide effective first aid in your workplace.
Read our blog for more information on first aid, or contact us for further advice and information on our products.