Until recently, the legislation on Safety Signs was the Safety Signs Regulations 1980. However a European Directive was issued in 1992 called : Directive on the minimum requirements for the provision of safety and/or health signs at work (Safety Signs Directive 92/58/EEC) This resulted in new legislation : Health & Safety (Safety Signs & Signals) Regulations 1996

The new Regulations expand the provisions of the 1980 Regulations to include acoustic signals, hand signals, verbal signals and fire safety signs, in addition to the more commonplace signboard safety signs.

The legislation states :

Safety signs and signals must be provided where an identified risk cannot be controlled by other means

In addition, safety signs must be properly designed, sufficient in number, correctly positioned, well maintained (including cleaning), in a good state of repair, and replaced when necessary.

Basically the new regulations ask that a graphic be included as well as text - a graphic on its own is acceptable but not text on its own.

SAFETY COLOURS There are now specified colours which have a designated meaning assigned to them. The colours are specified and sizes must be large enough to be seen clearly.

RED - this is used in PROHIBITION SIGNS to signify dangerous behaviour, and to identify and locate stop, shutdown, emergency cut out devices and fire fighting equipment.

PROHIBITION SIGNS These should be round with white background and red border and diagonal cross bar (the red must take up at least 35% of the sign area). Pictograms must be black and placed centrally on the background without obliterating the cross bar. The sign means that something must not be done, some examples are:


YELLOW - this is used in WARNING SIGNS to indicate possible dangers.

WARNING SIGNS These are triangular with a yellow background (the yellow to take up at least 50% of the sign area) and a black border. The pictogram, placed centrally, must be black. This sign warns of a particular hazard or danger, some examples are:



BLUE - this is used in MANDATORY SIGNS to signify the specific behaviour or actions that are required to be taken.

MANDATORY SIGNS These are round with a blue background (the blue to take up at least 50 % of the sign area) and white pictogram. These signs state what specific behaviour or action is expected, or what protective equipment must be worn some examples are :


GREEN - this is used to show the DIRECTION OF EMERGENCY ESCAPE ROUTES and exits, and the location and identification of first-aid facilities. It can also be used to indicate a return to normal, ie a non dangerous state.

SAFE CONDITIONS These signs are square or rectangular with white pictogram on green background (the green to take up at least 50% of the sign area). These signs indicate conditions such as first-aid posts or emergency routes, some examples are :


FIRE FIGHTING SIGNS: Square or rectangular with white pictogram on red background (the red to take up at least 50% of the sign area). These signs identify and show location of fire fighting equipment.

All FIRE EXITS since 24/12/1998 must have a sign with the graphic of the 'man walking quickly'

As you my have noticed, most of the equipment manufacturers have been including these signs for the past few years with new equipment - and if they have risk assessed their equipment to include particular signs warning of risks - you must take due consideration when using that equipment. e.g. if the equipment shows a Blue Mandatory Sign indicating that eye protection must be worn - then you will have to provide that Personal Protective Equipment and ensure that the operator wears it during use.

So what should you be doing ?? You will already have Safety Signs, so don't race out to replace them - do it gradually and when buying new signs make sure they are up to the new regulations. Also remember, they only have to be large enough to be seen clearly by whoever is at risk, there is no need to buy huge signs! Then, get your staff together and explain the meaning of all the signs you have in your workplace!!!!

Size of Signs

There is no dimension for particular signs. The recommendation is that they must be 'fit for purpose'. In other words if they are to be seen from 30 metres or from 3 metres or from 1 metre, the sign will be of different sizes. They must be clearly readable at the distance to be viewed and should be in a position which allows the individual to read the warning BEFORE he is exposed!

e.g. in normal 10 metre by 10 metre rooms, signs of 100mm square would be acceptable. In a large ballroom, it would be expected the sign is much larger.

L64 "Safety signs and signals: guidance on Regulations"