We have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure that everyone coming on site knows about the health and safety issues and are equipped to deal with them.

Employers should ensure that safety signs are provided (or are in place) and maintained in circumstances where there is a significant risk to health and safety that has not been removed or controlled by other methods. This is only appropriate where use of a sign can further reduce the risk. The other methods may include engineering controls or safe systems of work. Safety signs are not a substitute for those other methods of control.

In determining when and where to use safety signs, employers must take into account the results of the risk assessment. This assessment should identify hazards, the risks associated with those hazards, and the control measures to be taken. When those control measures have been put in place there may be a significant ‘residual’ risk such that employees must be warned of any further measures necessary. Safety signs should be used if they will help to further reduce this residual risk. If the risk is not significant there may be no need to provide a sign.

Safety signs are not a substitute for other means of controlling risks to employees; safety signs are to warn of any remaining significant risk or to instruct employees of the measures they should take in relation to these risks. For example, in some workplaces there may be a risk of foot injury despite taking measures to control the risk and it may be appropriate to remind staff using the sign indicating that wearing foot protection is mandatory.



  • Dangerous locations (e.g. where people may slip, fall from heights, or where there is low headroom) and traffic routes may need to be marked
  • Stores and areas containing significant quantities of dangerous substances to be identified by the appropriate warning sign
  • Pipe work at sampling and discharge points should be identified, using triangular-shaped warning signs of the symbols or pictograms on the containers of the same substance.


  • Signs must be sufficiently large and clear, durable, secured and properly maintained to ensure they remain visible.
  • Install signs at a suitable height and in the line of sight, either at the entry to an area of general hazard, or in the immediate vicinity of a specific hazard.
  • In areas where hearing or sight may be impaired (e.g. noisy environment, wearing personal protective equipment), additional measures may be required to ensure a warning sign is effective (e.g. increase volume or brilliance, provide audible and visible warnings).
  • If circumstances change and a hazard no longer exists, any redundant signs are to be removed.
  • All safety signs must be properly maintained (e.g. cleaned, tested for audibility or visibility), so as to perform their intended function.


  • (BS) 5378 Parts 1 & 3 (a standard defining pictorial symbols to identify particular hazards)
  • BS 5499 (fire safety signs)
  • ISO 7010

Where a sign is needed for an application not illustrated in the British standards mentioned above, it must be designed to conform to the general BS principles.


Ensure that your employees fully understand the meaning of fire safety signs in the workplace and how to give warning in case of fire. Supervisors, and others who have been given particular responsibility in an emergency, must be clear about the action to take if the fire alarm is sounded.


Safety signs table