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Beginners Guide To Health And Safety Signage


How many times have you looked around a building and seen red, green, blue or yellow signs pointing out hazards, warnings or directions. This Health and Safety signage can be confusing if you don’t know what it means, or where the different signs should be placed. While customers or visitors to the business aren’t expected to know what each means, some are made to be obvious so that, in an emergency, people know what to do.

For a business owner, putting these signs up in the right places and making sure staff know what they all mean – as well as what should be done in certain situations – is part of your responsibilities. We’re going to explain the different types of Health and Safety signs, why you need them and where they should be.

What Are Health And Safety Signs?

Signs can be found everywhere. On the streets, public places, workplaces, and many more. Some are informational, others directional and then there are the Health and Safety signs that are designed to keep people safe. Whether that’s the public, customers, workers, or anyone else, these signs point our risks, hazards and directions for emergency situations. These are communicated in simple, bold terms so anyone can understand them.

Health and Safety signs come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the environment they’re needed in. Larger spaces, where people are going to be more spread out and need to see things from a distance, means bigger signs, while smaller spaces will be sized appropriately.

Depending on the message being conveyed, even the shape of these signs can vary, and some are placed in lighting units to ensure they’re easily visible by as many people as possible.

The Different Types Of Health And Safety Signage

There are four main types of Health and Safety signage, and each is characterised with a colour. This means it’s simple to know what action you should – or shouldn’t – take when you see the sign. The four signs are prohibition, mandatory, warning and safe condition, and we’ll go into more detail on each below.

The different colours you’ll see on Health and Safety signs are red, blue, yellow and green. While there will be instructions or details about what the hazard, risk or instruction is, these choices make it hard to confuse the intent of the signs with each other. This is all part of keeping people safe in as many situations as possible.

1) Prohibition Signs

prohibition signs

Prohibition signs are probably the most obvious Health and Safety signs you’ll find. They highlight actions that should not be taken in a given area. These are coloured red and are usually circular symbols with black pictograms on a white background for added emphasis. There will be a warning with them to highlight further what the action is being prohibited.

Examples of these signs include:

  • No entry
  • No smoking
  • No parking
  • No running

The reason behind these signs is to protect people from accidents or injuries that such actions might cause. Smoking, for example, is not only a health hazard for people nearby, but represents a fire risk. The sign mitigates the risk of both outcomes from a single action.

2) Mandatory Signs

Almost the opposite of prohibition signs are the mandatory signs. These also tend to be circular, but are predominantly blue rather than red. These are used to instruct people of an action they must follow or complete in a certain area. The pictogram is white on the blue background, and text usually accompanies the image for clarity.

Examples include:

  • Wear a ace covering
  • Keep clear
  • Pedestrians only
  • Keep fire door closed

In some situations, people need to be reminded to do something or follow instructions to stay safe. These signs will help people be aware of everything they need to know, such as wearing a mask in an area where there’s dust or particulates in the air from production lines or cutting equipment.

3) Warning Signs

warning signs

Warning signs are used when people need to be aware of a risk, danger or hazard. These signs are triangular in shape and predominantly yellow. The text and pictogram are both black, making people aware of the situation so they can take steps to protect themselves. The nature of the warning will change depending on the environment.

Some examples of warning signs are:

  • Slippery floor
  • High voltage
  • Mind the step
  • Hot water

The warning signs are used when people are capable of taking care of themselves as long as they are aware there’s a hazard present. Every effort should be made to minimise the hazard before the sign is put up, but an extra warning adds another level of safety. Wet floor signs are a good example of this. Spillages should be cleaned but even light moisture can make the surface slippery for a time after, and this warning sign would make people aware of that.

4) Safe Condition Signs

The final type of Health and Safety sign is the safe condition sign. These are green signs with white pictograms and text, and usually rectangular in shape although some may be squares. They represent directions to safety in an emergency, or supplies to keep people safe – such as a first aid kit – as well as areas with no danger.

Examples of safe condition signs include:

  • Emergency exit
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency stop
  • Assembly point

Safe condition signs are about ensuring people are safe in every situation. This is most commonly seen with emergency exit signs in any building. In an emergency, people need to know exactly where to go in an emergency, where there might not always be someone onhand to help, and these signs convey those directions. They can even be placed in front of light units for areas in poor lighting.

Common Health And Safety Signs

There are a lot of different Health and Safety signs you might come across on a daily basis, but some are more common than others as they’re needed in every workplace. From offices to shopping centres, entertainment facilities to restaurants. Here are some of the most common signs you might see.

Fire Action Signs

Fire action signs will be displayed in every business to make sure that in the event of a fire, staff, customers and visitors know what to do. This sign is actually a combination of colours, as it includes prohibition sections, mandatory sections and safe conditions sections. The colours match their types of sign and convey clear instructions should a fire be found.

Emergency Exit Signs

emergency exit signs

Emergency exit signs are the green and white signs above doors and routes that provide a clear means of escape during an emergency. Their shape and colour make them easy to spot, so everyone knows where to go should an incident occur. This might take people through fire doors and reinforced corridors designed to keep fires at bay while people evacuate.

Fire Equipment Signs

Fire equipment signs will normally be found close to fire action signs, but not exclusively. Wherever there’s fire fighting equipment, such as blankets or extinguishers, an accompanying sign will inform you what equipment is nearby and brief instructions on when it should be used, such as what type of extinguisher it is and what fires it can be used on. The equipment itself will have more instructions.

No Smoking Signs

No smoking signs are used in areas where companies have opted to create smokefree environments. This covers indoor areas and areas near entrances, vents and high traffic areas where the smoke could affect passerbys. As a potential fire risk, too, appropriate disposal bins need to be nearby, too, so that no ashes or remains can catch fire and spread to other areas of the business.

Slippery Surface Signs

slippery surface signs

Slippery surface signs are used when a spillage has occurred. They are used to let people know a hazard is in the area, and even once clean, to identify the floor could still be slippier than usual. This gives people the information they need to take care of themselves, and because these incidents can occur anywhere, the signs are often mobile. They can be placed in the centre or around an area.

Where Should Health And Safety Signage Be Placed?

Wherever there is a risk or hazard people need to be aware of, the correct Health and Safety sign should be used – and placed close to the area of the hazard. This is to ensure everyone who may be affected can be made aware of the situation and act accordingly.

Safe condition signs should be placed wherever people need to follow a direction to remain safe – such as with emergency exits. Every route that is a designated emergency route should be marked with a clear sign. Mandatory signs also need to be present whenever people must do something in an area, such as wearing protective equipment.

In short, these signs should be as close as possible to whatever they’re protecting people from, warning them about or instructing them to do.

Learn More About Health And Safety Signage

There’s a huge range of Health and Safety signs out there, but not all apply to every business or industry. Part of what we do at Rhino Safety is make sure you have the right signs up so that staff, customers and visitors to your business know what to do in any situation.

This follows a thorough audit and understanding of your business. We identify where the signage should be placed for maximum effect and ensure you have the resources and knowledge to make sure every member of staff knows what to do in the face of hazards and risks.

To find out more about how we can help with Health and Safety signage in your business, contact our team at Rhino safety today.

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