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What are the Legal Requirements Regarding Safety Signs?

What are the Legal Requirements Regarding Safety Signs?
By Kevin Rowe 1 years ago No comments

The responsible use of safety signs is an essential aspect of a legally compliant health and safety policy. Businesses generally understand this - but many would still benefit from brushing up on the specifics of the relevant legislation to make sure their policies are fit for purpose.

After all, the consequences for failing to properly follow the Health and Safety Executive’s rules on safety signage can be quite serious; it can lead to an increased risk of dangerous accidents, while making the company in question liable for fines and damaging headlines.

As such, health and safety managers would be wise to spend time reminding themselves of the full requirements set out for safety signs in the UK, and regularly review their policies to ensure they are complying fully with the letter and spirit of the law.

What regulations are in place governing safety sign usage?

The expectations that UK lawmakers have of British companies with regard to the use of safety signage are set out in the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations of 1996, which lay out clear rules that employers, dutyholders and those in charge of work sites and premises need to follow.

These regulations are designed to enshrine the main points of the European Council Directive 92/58/EEC, which concerns the minimum requirements for the provision of safety signs at work, into UK law. The purpose of this is to ensure that all European Union (EU) workers - including those from the UK - can expect consistent safety standards and procedures wherever they choose to work in the EU.

Specifically, the current rules include provisions for BS EN ISO 7010, an EU standard that ensures businesses across the continent are using the same designs for their safety signs. This provides companies with assurance that any European workers they hire will have a good understanding of their site’s existing safety signage.

What do the regulations state?

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 lay down a few key rules that all companies must follow:

  • Safety signs must be provided 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 only applies when the use of a sign can be shown to further reduce the risk.
  • Employers must take into account the results of their risk assessments before deciding when and where to use safety signs. This assessment should identify hazards, associated risks and viable control measures, with signs used when there is a significant residual risk that employees need to be warned of.
  • Safety signs must not be used as a substitute for other means of controlling risks to employees. If a more substantial change can be made to completely eliminate a risk, for example through safer working methods, then a safety sign should not be used instead of taking this action.
  • Safety signs are not needed when no significant risks are present, with the exception of certain fire safety signs that are required under all circumstances. These requirements are covered under separate fire safety regulations.
  • Employers must ensure their employees are aware of and understand the meaning of safety signs. Although most signs are self-explanatory, some employees - particularly newer or less experienced staff members - may be unfamiliar with some of the less commonly used signs. As such, training should be provided where necessary, with the meaning of each sign clearly explained, and text supplementing the sign when useful.

How might the regulations change?

As with all aspects of health and safety regulations, companies need to make themselves aware of any changes that are made to these rules, and ensure they adjust their policies accordingly in order to remain compliant.

Of particular note is the fact that the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31st 2019, which could open the door for regulatory changes in the coming years as British and European law has more scope to diverge. However, the legislative impact of Brexit still remains to be seen, which is why this is an issue that companies should be monitoring closely.

By keeping up to date with the latest safety sign regulations and making proactive efforts to uphold them, British businesses will be able to stay on the right side of the law, while providing their staff with the highest level of safety and protection.


If you require safety signs for your workplace, look no further than SafetyBuyer. You can learn more about our products and services by calling us on 0800 043 0161, or by sending us an email at sales@safetybuyer.com.