Compulsory Signs in the Workplace

Compulsory Signs in the Workplace

Managing health and safety is crucial in the workplace, particularly when the company employs others. While employees must take some responsibility for their own health and safety, UK law states employers must be responsible for health and safety management in the workplace. As an employer, it is your duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of your staff and anyone else who visits the business or could be affected by a health and safety risk.

An essential aspect of managing health and safety is communicating policies, regulations and concerns to anyone who could be at risk while involved with your business. While you should ensure your team are aware of potential hazards and have received adequate training, it’s easy for rules to be forgotten or confused, which is why signposting is so important. Here, we look at the different types of signs you should display.

1. Prohibition signs

These signs are designed to indicate an act is forbidden in the vicinity and are used to prohibit behaviour which could increase the risk of danger or injury. For example, a “No smoking” sign is displayed in most office buildings to reduce the risk of fire.

hazardous waste sign

Prohibition signs appear as a bright red circle with a single diagonal cross through the image, on a white background. The picture indicating the banned activity should be black, to ensure it’s able to be seen clearly. The use of the colour red reinforces the fact the activity is a hazard, as red is the universal colour for danger.

2. Warning signs

Used to warn of a hazard or danger nearby. For example, “Danger! High Voltage” to warn of an electrical hazard in close proximity, which aims to reduce the risk of electrocution.

Warning signs are legally required by the Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. They appear as a yellow triangle with a black border, with black font and imagery for optimal visibility. The colour yellow is used to indicate the reader should take precautions and be careful.

3. Mandatory signs

Designed to show something that must be done. For example, “Safety goggles to be worn”, which aims to prevent injury to the eyes when using chemical products which could splash.

Mandatory signs consist of a bright blue circle on a white background, with the text or image displayed in white. The blue colour is used to indicate the act shown on the sign is mandatory and the reader must comply with the request.

4. Emergency signs

Designed to give information on emergency exit signs, first aid supplies, and other facilities which must be easily identifiable in an emergency.  For example, “Emergency exit”, indicating an escape route to be aware of in the event of an evacuation.

Compulsory Signs in the Workplace

Emergency signs are displayed as a bright green rectangle or square, with white font and imagery. The colour green is used to indicate something which will be helpful in an emergency, such as a first aid kit. It’s possible the colour was inspired by the traffic light system, where green means “go”.


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