When must safety signs be used?

Safety signs must be used whenever a hazard or danger can not be avoided adequately or reduced in another way. Before installing safety signs an employer should examine whether the hazard can be avoided or reduced by collective precautions (precautions that protect everybody) or safer ways of doing the work.
What regulations apply to safety signs?

The Safety Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (Chapter 1 of Part 7: Safety Signs at Places of Work) apply to safety signs.
What types of safety signs are there?

A safety sign provides information about safety or health and can be a signboard, colour, acoustic signal, verbal communication, or hand signal
What is a signboard?

A signboard is a sign that provides information or instruction using a combination of shape, colour and symbols but excludes information in writing.
Why must safety signboards not contain text?

Safety signboards should not contain text. This is because the symbols or pictograms on a signboard are intended to be understood, independently of the language ability of the worker viewing it.
How will workers understand the meaning of safety signs?

Employers must provide information to employees on the meaning and requirements of any signs used in the workplace, especially where text on supplementary signboards is used
Can any text be included on a safety sign?

Safety signboards put in place after 1 November 2007 should not contain text. Text may be included on a supplementary signboard provided that it does not adversely affect the effectiveness of the safety signboard.
What is a Supplementary Signboard?

A supplementary signboard (often with text) is used to give clarity to a signboard. A signboard and supplementary signboard can be located on one “carrier”. A carrier could be a single sheet of metal, plywood, laminated plastic or other material as might be appropriate to a location
How will workers understand the meaning of safety signs?

Employers must provide information to employees on the meaning and requirements of any signs used in the workplace, especially where text on supplementary signboards is used
Do existing safety signs containing text have to be replaced?

Where a signboard is already in place before 1 November and it meets all the requirements of Part 7 and Schedule 9 to the General Application Regulations, except that it contains text, an employer may leave that signboard in place until 1 January 2011.
This article is about non-traffic safety signs. For traffic warning signs, see Warning sign.
“Caution sign” redirects here. For the Unicode character, see Bourbaki dangerous bend symbol.
Safety signs. Clockwise from upper left: Sign prohibiting foreign objects on a runway, Japan; Military Security zone, Germany; Asbestos danger, United States; Fire extinguisher, ISO.
Shark safety sign in South Africa

Safety signs are a type of sign designed to warn of hazards, indicate mandatory actions or required use of Personal protective equipment, prohibit actions or objects, identify the location of firefighting or safety equipment, or marking of exit routes.

In addition to being encountered in industrial facilities; safety signs are also found in public places and communities, at electrical pylons and Electrical substations, cliffs, beaches, bodies of water, on motorized equipment, such as lawn mowers, and areas closed for construction or demolition.
One of the earliest attempts to standardize safety signage in the United States was the 1914 Universal Safety Standards.[1] The signs were fairly simple in nature, consisting of an illuminated board with “DANGER” in white letters on a red field An arrow was added to draw attention to the danger if it was less obvious. Signs indicating exits, first aid kits consisted of a green board, with white letters. The goal with signs was to inform briefly.[1] The next major standards to follow were , which later revised in 1967 and 1968. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration devised their requirements from in the development of their rules, for the usage of safety signage

In the 1980s, American National Standards Institute formed a committee to update the Z53[b] and Z35 standards. In 1991, ANSI Z535 was introduced, which was intended to modernize signage through increased use of symbols, the introduction of a new header, ‘Warning’ and requiring that wording not just state the hazard, but also the possible harm the hazard could inflict and how to avoid the hazard.[3] Until 2013, OSHA regulations[4] technically required usage of signage prescribed in OSHA §1910.145, based on the standard ASA Z35.1-1968. Regulation changes and clarification of the law now allow usage of signs complying with either OSHA §1910.145 or ANSI Z535 designs
In Europe
Prior to widespread globalization and adoption of standards from the ISO, most countries developed their own standards for safety signage. Text only signs were common prior to introduction of European Council Directivewhich required member states to have policies in place to ensure that “safety signs at all places of work conform to the principles laid down in Annex I”, which required color coding and symbols. In 1992, the European Council Directive . The new directive included improved information on how to utilize safety signage effectively. Beyond safety signs, EEC Directive 92/58/EEC standardize markings for fire equipment, acoustic signals, verbal and hand signals for vehicle movements.[6] In 2013, the European Union adopted ISO 7010 to replace the symbols provided previously, adopting them as European Norm (EN) ISO 7010, standardizing symbols among the EU countries. Prior to this, while symbols were provided, symbols were permitted to vary in appearance “provided that they convey the same meaning and that no difference or adaptation obscures the meaning
a panese safety signage is notable for its clear visual differences from international norms, such as use of square ‘no symbols’, vertical formatting of sign text. Safety sign standards are regulated by Japanese Industrial Standards through standards (Workplace and public area safety signs) JIS Z 9103 (Safety sign colors) and JSafety signs – General specifications). While design trends have been moving towards international norms of ISO and ANSI standards, differences are still present such as the use of symbols unique to the JIS standards, using colors differently from ISO standards[d] and using a combination of Japanese kanji and English. In addition to typical safety sign standards, Japan introduced JIS Z 9098 in 2016 specifically addressing emergency management needs: informing people of areas susceptible to natural disasters, evacuation routes and safe shelters from disasters. The standard’s more unique aspect is the usage of maps and diagrams to provide more detailed information about the area’s hazards, shelters and evacuation routes.
In China

Chinese safety signage is regulated by Standardization Administration of China using GB standards which all safety signs are legally required to comply with.[11] Designs are similar to ISO 3864 and uses older ISO symbols, while adding several additional symbols covering a wider range of prohibitions and hazards.[10]
The 2007 revisions to ANSI Z353.4 allowed for the ‘safety alert symbol’ found on ‘Danger’, Warning’ and ‘Caution’ headers to be replaced with the ISO 7010 “W001 – General warning” symbol to enable compliance with ISO 3864-1 for signs used in international situations or equipment being exported abroad. Additional headers designs exist, Z53.1-1968 prescribed a magenta and yellow ‘Radiation’ header for radiation hazards. Other headers have been created by sign manufacturers for various situations not covered Z53.1 standard, such as “Security Notice”, “Biohazard”, “Restricted Area”.
ISO Safety symbols. Clockwise from upper left: Prohibited, Warning; Safe condition; Mandatory.

See also: Hazard symbol

As a means of overcoming language and literacy barriers, symbols depicting the hazards, required action or equipment, prohibited actions or items and safety equipment were introduced to safety signage during the 1990s. Globalization and increased international trade helped push this development, as a means of reducing costs associated with needing signage multiple languages.[3] Increasingly, countries are adopting symbols used by ISO 7010 and UN Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, that harmonizes symbols internationally to reduce confusion, and bring themselves into compliance with international standards.
Portable signage
An American “Wet Floor” sign in English and Spanish

For temporary situations such as wet floors, portable signs are used. They are designed to be self supporting and relatively easy to move once the task is complete. The 1914 Universal Safety Standards[1] provided for a portable ‘Danger’ sign suitable for both hard floors and soft dirt. Portable signs can take a variety of forms, from a traffic cone with stick on letters, plastic a-frame signs, to safety signs mounted on poles with bases that enable movement.

Wet floor signs are also intended to avoid legal liability from injury due failing to warn of an unsafe condition They are usually yellow.[14] The warning is sometimes enhanced with new technology to provide audible warnings.[15] Robotic cleaning equipment can use wet floor signs with sonar gadgetry to know when its job is finished.
Effectiveness of safety signs
Information overload: Instructions of what to do when a lightning alarm sounds are in the second paragraph.

Since the late 1980s, more emphasis has been put on testing signage for clarity and to eliminate possible misunderstandings. Researchers have examined the impacts of using different signal words, inclusion of borders and color contrast with text and symbols against sign backgrounds.[17] In 1999, a group of designers were tasked with creating standardized warning labels for personal watercraft. The group devised several versions of the same warning label using different symbols, wording and emphasis of key phrases through use of underlining, bold fonts and capitalizing. The label designs were reviewed by the United States Coast Guard, United States Power Squadron, industry representatives and subjected to ease of comprehension and readability tests. Results of these reviews and tests lead to further revisions of words and redesigning of some symbols. The resulting labels are still applied to personal watercraft nearly 20 years after their initial design.

Placement of signs also affects the effectiveness of signs. A 1993 study tested compliance with a warning against loading the top drawer of a filing cabinet first. The warning was least effective when it was only placed on the shipping box, but most effective when placed as part of a removable cardboard sleeve that physically obstructed the top drawer, interfering with adding files to the drawer.[20]

Sign effectiveness can be reduced from a number of factors, including information overload, where the sheer amount of information is presented in a manner that a reader is unable process it adequately, such as being confronted by a sign consisting of dozens of words with no paragraph breaks, or excessive amounts of unnecessary information.[f] This can be prevented through simplifying warnings down to their key points, with supplementary manuals or training covering the more nuanced and minor information. Over warning is a related problem, where warnings are overlooked by people due to the sheer number of warnings, such as placing many safety signs together, redundant or obvious warnings.[17] Effectiveness can be reduced through conditions such as poor maintenance, placing a sign too high or low, or in a way that requires excessive effort to read
As an employer, you must understand safety signs and their meanings so that you can appropriately use the correct safety signs in the workplace. Health and safety signs come in four distinct colors, and each indicates a different warning or precaution.

Blue safety signs are mandatory signs that explain a specific action. A yellow safety sign is a warning or caution sign. Red safety signs usually indicate danger or prohibition of a certain substance or act. Green signs are not designed to highlight danger, and instead indicate helpful information and safe points, such as fire exits or first aid points.

Using the correct safety sign as an employer is a legal requirement set out by the Health and Safety Executive, and it is therefore essential to understand health and safety signs and their meanings in order to ensure your workplace is being kept safe.

Safety signs and the law

All employers have a legal duty to display safety signs where there is a risk to the safety of pedestrians or employees, despite putting other safety measures in place. You can minimise risks by conducting routine workplace health and safety assessments, and following the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) guidelines if you use hazardous substances in your place of work.

Every safety sign should be clearly visible and legible and should only be used to identify the correct actions, such as the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), or no access zones. Using too many signs could be confusing. You only need to put up a safety sign if there is a danger that poses a significant risk. Whilst health and safety signs are not always required by law, they can still be helpful.

You can find out more information about the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 on the government website. This is the law you must follow when displaying health and safety signs in the workplace.
Explaining the meaning of common health and safety signs
afety signs can vary in colour, size and shape
. You should understand which safety sign you need in your business, as this will depend on the type of business you run. Usually, green safety signs are the most common, as all workplaces must indicate fire exits. If you use or store hazardous substances, yellow safety signs should be used.

Below we look at the different common types of health and safety signs and their meanings:
These safety symbols must be red and indicate that dangerous behaviour must be stopped. They can also tell the reader to stop or not enter. For a prohibition sign to be within the law, red must cover at least 35% of the sign. Usually, these safety symbols have a black image on a white and red background. For prohibition signs, a red circle with a strike-through line indicates which action must be stopped. The most common red prohibition signs are no-smoking signs.
Warning safety signs
These are health and safety signs with a yellow background that tell the reader to take precautions or be careful. They warn of possible dangers, such as an electric or trip hazard. Warning signs are often triangular in shape, with a black image and black edging. These warning safety signs are usually accompanied by some text explaining the warning in more detail.
Mandatory signs
Mandatory health and safety signs are always blue and tell the reader that a certain action is required. If you work in construction, these are commonly seen at the entrance to the construction site and tell employees that they must follow a certain action, such as wearing the appropriate PPE. These mandatory signs are on a blue background with white text and a white image.
Emergency exit signs
emergency exit signs are always green in color. They represent a safe escape route if there were to be a fire in the building. These are usually standardized and have a green background with white writing, with a man running out of a door.
First aid signs
First aid signs are also green and indicate a first aid zone within an area. As green is a neutral colour, it can indicate help and safety. First aid signs are not always mandatory, but can be helpful depending on your work setting. They can also be used to indicate where specialist first aid equipment is kept, such as a defibrillator.
Fire safety signs and fire equipment signs
Fire safety signs are always red, as this color represents danger or fire, and is eye-catching in an emergency situation. It could indicate a fire alarm call point or fire fighting equipment. Usually, these are a rectangular or square shape with a white image on a red background. They may also be accompanied by some text.
Combined signs
SO 7010 is the UK law designed ensure the safety signs used here in Britain are consistent with those used across the European Union. Under this legislation, a health and safety sign can be combined to give several messages at once. These are ideal for garage courtyards or construction sites, where a combination of safety signs need to be used. This avoids confusion and ensures that employees see all safety signs before entering an area.
Find out more

To learn more about health and safety signs and finding the right sign for your application, take a look at our Ultimate Guide to Safety Signs, or give the experts at SafetyBuyer a call on 0800 043 1061 if you have any questions. You can also browse our range of safety signs online today.
Why Use Safety Symbols

According to the ISO standard on safety colors and signs (ISO 3864-1:2011), “there is a need to standardize a system of giving safety information that relies as little as possible on the use of words to achieve understanding.”

Safety signs and symbols are used as safety communication tools—they help send clear messages, instructions, and warnings without the use of too many words. They speed up the level of understanding of individuals, and are useful especially in scenarios where a quick response is needed.

With the use of visual aids, safety signs and symbols reduce the risk of accidents and create awareness on hazards present in specific areas or materials.
Types of Safety Symbols (with Examples)

Standardized safety signs and symbols are characterized by images, pictograms, shapes, words, phrases, sentences, or statements. Each shape conveys a different meaning, and each color represents the type of precaution it’s categorized in. Below are the 4 main types of safety symbols with names and their meanings:

The prohibition sign, also known as the No symbol or “Do Not” sign, is a type of symbol that indicates an instruction of forbidding an activity. It aims to prevent a behavior that could pose a potential risk not just to an individual, but to the area and its other occupants as well. This can also sometimes be just direct commands for prohibited activities.

These signs are characterized by a circular red band with a diagonal line descending from left to right in a 45 degree angle. Examples of these are do not smoke or do not enter commands.

Warning signs, as the name suggests, are symbols that communicate warnings and notify individuals of the presence of hazards or dangers in an area. These dangers may not initially be apparent so usage of these types of signs helps ensure that special attention is gained from the people in the vicinity.

This can vary but the common characteristics of this symbol is a yellow or amber band in a triangle form and black text that specifies why it’s a hazard. Examples of these are deep excavation signs and high voltage warnings.

The mandatory sign is a symbol that orders a specific action to help comply with statutory requirements involving a business or industry. It aims to protect individuals from dangers that could arise, should these orders be disregarded, and is commonly used in isolated areas where a particular precaution is required.

These signs usually feature a circular shape with a blue background and white pictogram. Examples of these are areas with safety helmet and protective goggles requirements.

Emergency signs are one of the most common types of symbols used generally and understood fairly easily. These are symbols that indicate emergency exits and doors, escape routes, and signs that direct to first aid or emergency equipment.

These signs are characterized with rectangular or square shapes, green background, and white pictogram. Most common examples of these are fire exits and other secondary routes used for emergencies.

Aside from the above-mentioned safety signs and symbols, there are labels that are specifically or are mostly used for identifying potential chemical hazards called GHS pictograms.
What are GHS Pictograms?

GHS pictograms are graphic labels that communicate the potential risk associated with a specific chemical and unprotected exposure to its elements. It is characterized by a symbol on a white background, framed with red borders, and an imagery that distinctly presents the classification or type of potential hazard it is related to.

GHS pictograms are part of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals—an internationally agreed-upon standard of labeling scheme and hazard classification in relation to hazardous chemicals.

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), and in compliance with the updated Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), it is required that all chemical labels have a standardized signal word, precautionary statement, and pictograms attached for each hazard class and category.
Health hazard – This symbol shows a person with damage and pertains to chemicals that can cause serious and long-term negative impact to health.
Flammable – The symbol for this is a flame and it pertains to chemicals or highly flammable gases that may catch fire once exposed with air or other ignition sources.
Irritant/hazardous/hazardous to ozone layer – This is symbolized by a big exclamation point and refers to chemicals that can either cause irritation or harm to individuals, or pose a threat to public health by harming the ozone layer.
Gas under pressure – The symbol for this is a gas cylinder and it pertains to gases that are stored under pressure and may explode if heated, or refrigerated gases that may cause burns or injury.
Corrosion – This pictogram shows corrosion of material and skin. It refers to chemicals that can cause severe skin burns and damages in tissue once contacted with.
Explosives – This is symbolized by an exploding bomb and pertains to chemicals that may explode or can cause a mass explosion.
Oxidizers – This pictogram shows a flame over a circle and symbolizes chemicals that can cause fire or explosion when exposed with other elements or chemicals.
Hazardous to the environment – The symbol for this is of a dead tree and fish. It refers to chemicals that can cause lasting damages to the environment.
Toxic – This pictogram shows a skull and crossbones, and symbolizes chemicals that even at a very low exposure—can cause damage to health or even fatality.

Safety Symbols Compliance with Safety Culture

Ensure proper safety signs and symbols usage in your workplace or establishment with SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor). Available as a mobile app and web-based tool, this digital platform can help safety managers, safety officers, and employees in workplaces comply with the requirements of using safety symbols to reduce exposure to dangers and hazards. SafetyCulture can also help you do the following:

Perform safety symbols inspections using digital templates and checklists. Find other safety templates you may need from our Public Library.
Gain an accurate overview of safety symbols compliance by utilizing SafetyCulture’s Scoring feature in every inspection.
Create recommendations and instructions using SafetyCulture’s Actions feature, and immediately assign them to personnel for time-sensitive responses.
Upload corresponding media/images directly during the inspection using your mobile phone or tablet.
Generate inspection reports from any device and share them with your team or relevant stakeholders.
Discover the parts of operations and areas in the workplace that you encounter the most non-compliance and be able to address them with the use of SafetyCulture’s Analytics feature.
Safely access your data anytime and anywhere.
Effectively manage and ensure the safe usage of equipment and other assets in your organization.
Train employees on using safety symbols and other related safety practices in the workplace using the following courses:
    New Hire Safety Orientation
    Safety in the Workplace

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