Safety Signs & Symbols - The UK Guide
Which type of health and safety messages should you use to keep people safe and reduce safety risks?
The Sign Shed's guide to UK workplace safety signs and symbols and their meanings helps you and your business stay safe and comply with HSE, UK and EU guidelines.
Where there is a risk to people, there is a need to prevent accidents, protect from fire, provide health hazard information and help evacuate safely in an emergency.
UK Hazard Signs and Meanings
Hazard warning signs are required under the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 and, in particular, under the Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Work Areas) Regulations 1990. Safe Conditions signs specify the existence of safe escape routes or the position of safety equipment and are required by the Health and Safety Regulations 1996. Construction site signs provide essential instructions and site-related notices to employees and visitors, including information about health & safety and directions. Businesses can also use our Safety Signs to alert to potential hazards in their working environment and restrict entry areas.
Safety symbol signs are everywhere, from nurseries and libraries to hospitals and offices. Visible guidance by safety signs gives a clear direction and reduces the possibility of accidents for both employees and non-employees, thus creating a safer work environment. Safety sign symbols must be used to communicate clear, unequivocal messages that are easy for all to understand, even if English is not their first language.
Workplaces should use safety signs to communicate commands that are not typed, such as saying that smoking is prohibited. There are four sign groups: prohibition, warning, mandatory safety messages (such as wearing personal protective equipment or high-visibility clothing), emergency or safety messages (safe conditions such as routes to a fire escape or nearest first-aid kits), plus oral and acoustic signs and manual signals. This blending of colours helps to make the fire safety signs conspicuous and inform the staff about hazardous elements, such as explosives or highly flammable materials. For example, when red is used in a safety sign, this is typically an exclusionary sign intended to alert the viewers to the hazardous conditions nearby or those which could result from their actions.
Red Warning (Prohibition) signs: Some types of conduct are likely to result in health and safety risks. Red Prohibition signs indicate what is not allowed or by whom. Because the prohibition signs direct and communicates about hazardous behaviours or evacuations, employers are responsible for ensuring that everybody is informed about risks. In addition, mandatory signs raise health and safety awareness at work by specifying actions to meet legal requirements.
Blue safety signs are mandatory signs, indicating a particular behaviour needs to occur before proceeding; it could be applying safety glasses while working with chemicals or wearing hard hats while entering a building site. Yellow safety signs Yellow or amber signs are warnings, making people aware they should be taking safety measures or taking care of the surrounding area.
Warning signs are yellow signs and denote a hazard or a danger that needs to be known, like chemical hazards, electric hazards, or, in the case of the rural and agricultural range of signs from The Sign Shed, warning about bulls in the fields. In other words, our must-use sign range tells you something to do, like drive slowly, keep gates closed, or must wear safety helmets.
Green signs are safe condition signs, such as those directing to fire exits or advising of first aid locations.
BS EN ISO 7010 Explained
Industries needed an everyday health and safety signage standard with increasingly culturally diverse workers. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) sought a solution to worker safety dangers by introducing European standard safety symbols that workers, including those with disabilities, could quickly identify.
EN ISO 7010:2019 sets out clear rules on the shape and colour of each symbol and eliminates confusion that, in the past, led to the risk of accidents. It is intended to provide the same message to workers throughout Europe. Therefore, employers and workers should use it in conjunction with safe working and accident prevention methods.
Who must comply with safety regulations and display safety signs?
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to conduct risk assessments to identify and control hazards in the workplace. In addition, the Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) require employers to provide safety signs where employers can use the signage to warn or instruct and help reduce the risk of injury or health issues.
Where there is "no significant risk to health and safety", the HSE advises that it may not be necessary for a business to display a sign, except for certain fire safety signs.
Here's your guide to Safety Sign symbols and colours
What is a Warning Sign?
Warning signs indicate a hazard or a danger to be aware of, such as a chemical danger, an electrical hazard or with our countryside and agriculture sign range, a warning of a bull in a field. These signs appear as a triangular symbol with a yellow background and a black border. As with all of our warning signs, the text is clear and concise in a black, bold Helvetica font.
What is a Mandatory Sign?
Our mandatory signs range complies with the Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the latest UK and EU legal requirements. Mandatory signs prescribe a specific behaviour. In other words, they tell you that you must do something, such as Drive Slowly, Keep gates closed, or Safety helmets must be worn. The sign must include a round shape blue circle with a white pictogram. As with all of our mandatory safety signs, the text is clear and concise. Mandatory sign text is white in a bold Helvetica font with a blue background.
What is a Prohibition Sign?
All Prohibition signs available at The Sign Shed can be used indoors and outdoors and in various sizes and materials such as self-adhesive vinyl stickers, rigid plastic, or hard-wearing composite aluminium.
Prohibition signs are signs prohibiting behaviour likely to increase or cause danger. They tell you something that you must not do. Prohibition signs feature a black pictogram inside a circle with red edging and a red diagonal line running through it. Our Prohibition signs range features Access Restricted signs, Smoking prohibition signs and general prohibition signs, e.g. Do not use mobile phones. These signs are used in many areas such as schools, colleges, offices, factories, construction sites, kitchens, shops, and agriculture.
What is a Safe Condition Sign?
Safe condition signs indicate the presence of safe exit routes or the location of safety equipment and comply with the Health & Safety Regulations 1996. These signs are on a green background. As with all our safety signs, the text is clear and concise in a white, bold Helvetica font.
So which sign size is best?
The size of the sign depends on the location and the distance it needs to be read by a person with good eyesight in daylight. For example, a parking sign needs to be read further away for a motorist than a trip hazard sign for a pedestrian. The general rule is not to choose the smallest and usually cheapest sign possible, as it then negates the point of having a sign in the first place if the text is too small to read!
Our Guide to Safety Sign viewing distances gives good advice if you're struggling to decide which size is best.