Safety signage

How to use and display safety signage correctly

What are safety signs for?

Safety signs are one of the main means of communicating health and safety information to employees, contractors, service users and members of the public.

Safety signs should be easy to understand and should also be easy to see and read.

Signs and signals could include:

  • fire alarms
  • illuminated signs
  • hazard signs on chemicals
  • fire signage/escape routes
  • prohibition notices
  • warning signs
  • hazard signs

Safety sign colours

Red signs are for prohibition, danger or for alarm. They are round with a black pictogram on a white background and the red edging should be at least 35% of the surface area of the sign.

Yellow or Amber are warning signs used for caution or for taking precautions. They will be triangular in shape with a black pictogram on a yellow background with black edges. The yellow part should be at least 50% of the area of the sign.

Blue signs are for instruction or for information, for example, wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). They are round with a white pictogram on a blue background. The blue part of the sign should be at least 50% of the area of the sign.

Green signs are for emergency escape routes or first aid. They are rectangular with a white pictogram on a green background. The green part of the sign should be at least 50% of the sign.

Red (fire-fighting signs) give instructions for and the location of firefighting equipment. They are rectangular with a white pictogram on a red background. The red part of the sign should be at least 50% of the sign.

Good practice

  • Safety signs should be in place to warn of hazards and to prevent dangerous practices. They should also indicate safe exit routes and practices.
  • Road traffic signs must be used when necessary to control traffic within the workplace, such as trucks, vans and forklift trucks. Clear access and exit areas should be in place for both traffic and pedestrians.
  • Specific hazard signs should be in place in dangerous locations where there is a risk of slipping or falling from a height or if there is low headroom.
  • Always ensure employees use standard hand signals when directing vehicles and also when the vehicles are carrying out difficult manoeuvres. It is good practice to use a banksman when carrying out workplace manoeuvers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have specific guidance on banksmen and signallers.

Safety signage legislation

The Health and Safety (Signs and Signal) Regulations 1996 require employers to provide specific safety signage whenever there is a risk that could not be avoided or controlled. There are specific requirements for colour and shape.

Supplementary text may be added to help understand the meaning, but text-only signs are not permitted.

All signs must:

  • contain a symbol or pictogram
  • be of a specific colour which clearly defines a clear message
  • be maintained
  • be replaced if they are defective

Employers also have to explain any signage that may be unfamiliar to employees. They need to ensure all employees understand the meaning and any actions that need to be taken.