Health & Safety Signs – Colour & Meanings Guide

Health and safety is a primary concern in the workplace, with many regulations in place to reduce the risk of workplace accidents. Health and safety signs are required by law where risks are present. They help to support measures already in place and ensure compliance with health and safety regulations.

Adequate workplace health and safety signs are vital to ensure everyone who enters the building or worksite remains safe and well, and safety procedures are followed.

Our safety sign colour guide focuses on the important information you need to be aware of when placing signs in your work environment.

Signs in the UK can be broken down into four categories; mandatory, warning, prohibition, and emergency.

Mandatory Signs – Blue

When a sign is mandatory, it will be blue so that it stands out from other signs.

This helps to distinguish it from other information visible to anyone visiting the building. If these signs didn’t exist then there would need to be verbal instructions given every time a new person entered. This would be extremely time consuming for staff so this is a great way to meet the standards promptly.

These signs make it clear when certain actions need to be taken or particular behaviours need to be observed. Safety standards are a huge part of work industries and certain regulations are mandatory rather than advisory. This is why blue signs are used so that everyone knows this information is a requirement.

They are there as a visual reminder that a certain action or behaviour is expected of each individual.

When Should Mandatory Signs be Used?

Mandatory signs are placed in locations to indicate mandatory safety procedures that must be followed by all employees.

When there is an identified risk or a dangerous environment signs will be erected so that the procedures to be followed are clear to everyone. The type of sign you will need will be required on your business.

For example, having a sign next to handwashing facilities should be standard practice. You might also need them on certain types of automatic fire doors, or when you are required to wear masks or ear protection.

Blue mandatory signs can represent:-

  • The need for appropriate footwear.
  • Helmets required.
  • Fire Action instructions.
  • Social distancing requirements.
  • Hand sanitiser is required.
  • Gloves are required.
  • Only authorised personnel beyond this point.
  • Wear hairnets.

Fire Safety Signs – Red

Fire safety signs in the workplace are a legal requirement as set out by the Regulatory Reform Order, 2005.

These can highlight a range of essential workplace fire safety information including where the extinguishers are kept and the location of fire exits.

It can also give information about the fire alarms and blankets available. This will all form part of the fire safety plan that all employees should be aware of.

It also means anyone visiting the building knows how to react in an emergency. Some workplaces include fire safety signs advising what not to do in a fire situation. All these steps ensure that correct protocols are followed.

Red is also the colour used on fire equipment including all types of fire extinguishers, so the same coloured signs follow on from this.

When Should Fire Safety Signs be Used?

All UK workplaces are required to have fire safety signs around the premises. They are there to provide staff and customers in the workplace with fire safety information.

This could be specific instructions, fire safety tips or to alert everyone to where equipment is located. They will also refer to fire exits and where to raise the alarm.

Fire safety signs can include the following information:-

  • Fire extinguishers
  • Fire alarms
  • Fire hose point.
  • Fire blankets
  • Do not use the lift when there is a fire.

Prohibition Signs – Red

Prohibition signs are there as a warning against actions which may pose a risk.

These safety signs are there to demonstrate that certain actions or behaviour may pose a risk to general safety. The signs are circular and are letting you know that something is prohibited from that specific area.

Prohibition signs consist of a red border with a picture of the prohibited item or behaviour in the middle. This will then feature a thick black line through the centre to demonstrate it is not allowed.

When Should Prohibition Signs be Used?

Prohibition signs should be used to make it clear which actions or behaviours are not allowed in a particular area. They alert to any potentially dangerous or harmful activities.

Examples include making it clear when an area is strictly no smoking or other “do not” orders.

These red signs should all be on topics covered in the training and induction of employees. Everyone should know how to perform in different areas. These signs are also important for any visiting individuals who will not have been trained.

Red prohibited signs can be used to alert to a range of “do not” orders including:-

  • No smoking
  • No phones allowed
  • No food or drinks
  • No running
  • No cameras
  • No entry
  • No exit

First Aid Signs & Emergency Exit Signs – Green

Any green signs in the UK workplace will represent either first aid related information or emergency exits.

They can relate to escape routes, fire and emergency exits, first aid room signs, first aid kits, and other safe areas. Green is there as a sign of safety and as a way of pursuing something to minimise any dangers.

When Should First Aid & Emergency Exit Signs be Used?

Green emergency and first aid signs should be used in the appropriate locations in all businesses.

Every UK business should have a robust fire safety and first aid policy in place which all employees are trained to understand.

There ideally should be someone specifically trained to take charge in an emergency. Green safety signs support such a policy and help direct employees to the appropriate place.

Green first aid and emergency exit signs are used:-

  • To highlight safe routes.
  • To point out safety services such as first aid points.
  • Nearby fire exits.
  • Safe fire collection point.
  • As arrows to point in a particular direction.
  • To point out safe drinking water.

Legal Requirements For Health & Safety Signs

There are very specific legal requirements in the UK for the display of health and safety signs.

Laws were introduced to standardise the different signs so that no matter where you visit, the sign holds the same meaning. This helps keep everyone in the workforce safe while carrying out their responsibilities. The Health and Safety Signs and Signals Regulations, 1996 are responsible for overseeing all of this.

These regulations must be adhered to by any UK business who are covered by the Health and Safety at Work Safety Act, 1974. These laws emphasise the importance of having safety information available for all employees to refer to. The colours should be kept as in this guide so that everyone in the UK follows the same consistency. Whenever there is a risk that cannot be eliminated. there should be a sign.

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