Safety Signs and Signals Regulations
The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 bring into UK law a European directive to standardise safety signs throughout the European Union. To overcome language barriers, meanings of signs are not conveyed by words but by other characteristics. The regulations set out minimum requirements for the provision of safety signs at work.
Where & When to Use Safety Signs
The rules oblige employers to provide safety signs anywhere in the workplace where other methods, properly considered, cannot deal satisfactorily with the risks.
Safety signs are not a substitute for other methods of controlling a risk; they are to be used to supplement or reinforce other measures, such as engineering controls and safe systems of work, to help reduce risk further.
The signs may be given by well lit signboards, labels or illuminated panels, sound, hand signal, verbal communication or any effective combination of these.
Some signs may prohibit dangerous behaviour, warn about a specific hazard or provide a mandatory instruction. These signs have to be sited wherever the information needs to be communicated to best effect. Generally siting of these signs will be at the approach to, and/or in the immediate vicinity of, the potential danger.
Other signs identify fire-fighting equipment and its location, identify emergency escape exits and routes, or identify first aid equipment or facilities and their location. Siting needs to be wherever is necessary to enable people to easily find what they need.
Other signs show boundaries between areas of safety and those of danger. Siting of these, for example, needs to be where there are obstacles (such as the presence of a barrier), dangerous locations (such as the edge of an unfenced drop or the area beneath loads which could fall) or traffic routes (such as yellow or white continuous lines marking their edges).
Yet other signs warn of imminent danger, for example fire alarms or reversing horns, and need to be heard or seen by anyone at risk from the hazard.
And yet other signs give manoeuvering instructions to direct hazardous operations. These need to be used where the operator can see the hand signals, hear the verbal instructions or both.