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Safety signs are a good way of communicating danger, concerns or directions where people need to travel. Now, the safety signs themselves can be different shapes and sizes and colours, depending on what you are actually looking at and trying to warn people about. The Health and Safety, Safety Signs and Signals Regulations 1996 laid down the requirements for signals and signs in the workplace. The Regulations state that safety signs and signals are required where, despite putting into place all other relevant measures, a significant risk to the health and safety of employees and others remains. Signs must be clear and legible and used to identify actions that are not allowed, like no access to an area; safeguards that must be followed, like using ear protection; warnings of a hazard like a corrosive substance; and direction to exits or something like first aid equipment.

You need to avoid too many signs that will just confuse people. There are a few general rules regarding the colour. Yellow means a danger. This danger could be from an explosion, forklifts, or something that is going to cause physical harm to you, so they are a very easy one for you to look out for. Blue signs usually mean mandatory instructions. These could be like wearing PPE, putting your helmet on and observe other warnings that you have to do. Red signs are something you must not do. These could be Do Not Enter, Do Not Use Your Mobile Phone, or Do Not Have a Naked Flame. Green signs show a safe condition. This could be an emergency exit, a fire door, where the first aid kit is, or maybe you are in a boat, and it could indicate where the life jackets are.

Have a look around your workplace. You will see that some of these signs glow in the dark. This is so that something like a fire alarm, a fire escape or a fire extinguisher point can be very easily found even on zero or minimal lighting.

An EU directive is in place to harmonise signs across Europe to ensure that they are understood by visitors and travellers to other member states. There is an HSE guidance booklet on signs and you can access this from the HSE website or the download area of this course.