What health and safety signs do I need at work?

What health and safety signs do I need at work? - JPS Online Ltd

The health and safety of employees in the workplace is one of the most important considerations for business owners.

A slip, fall or accident at work can be incredibly costly, not only for the liable business but also to the NHS and the injured individual.

In fact, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), UK workers suffer around 11,000 major injuries caused by slips every year, costing employers over £500 million per year. And if the injured party requires medical attention, this costs the NHS around £115 million each year.

However, over and above this financial burden is the incalculable cost to the worker, who may have to have time off work resulting in loss of earnings, and endure pain, worry and stress.

Despite these alarming figures, the majority of workplace accidents are completely preventable through a robust health and safety strategy.

All employees are entitled to work in a place where risks to their health and safety are properly managed.

What are the laws around workplace health and safety?

Under UK health and safety laws, the primary responsibility for health and safety lies with the employer.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers are responsible for protecting the safety of their employees at work, by preventing potential dangers in the workplace.

They have a duty to consult with their people on all health, safety and welfare matters. This includes making sure that workers, including employed and self-employed contractors, are protected from risks that may cause harm or injury in the workplace.

The legislation also places health and safety duties on the occupiers of buildings, contractors, manufacturers and employees to ensure their own safety in the workplace, along with that of their colleagues.

This law applies to all businesses, regardless of size, and is enforced by inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for factories, farms and building sites, and local authorities for offices, shops, hotels, catering and leisure businesses.

Assessing the risks

Businesses should carry out regular risk assessments to identify any potential hazards that could cause harm in the workplace. These risks, and the steps taken to reduce them, should be shared with all employees. Employers should also train colleagues on how to mitigate these risks themselves.

Regular consultation with employees on health and safety issues should also be carried out, either directly or through a safety representative.

Raising awareness of potential risks

As well as taking proper steps to control and manage the risks identified by the risk assessment, employers are also required to install informative posters and signage that makes all colleagues, visitors and guests aware of potential hazards.

The Health and Safety (Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 states that appropriate safety signs should be used where a risk cannot be adequately avoided or controlled by other means.

Using safety signs can help educate the occupants about risk and reduce accidents and injury. They can be found in almost every environment, from offices and hospitals to construction sites and manufacturing factories. All workplaces can benefit from health and safety signage, and should, by law, display the necessary information to protect the workforce.

There are several compulsory signs that are required by law in the UK workplace. These include fire safety signs, emergency exit signs, road traffic regulations within the workplace and prohibition signage. These can be broken into four clear categories: prohibition, warning, mandatory and emergency.


Prohibition signs highlight a risk of danger and are usually colour coded in red. These signs prohibit a behaviour and should be used for ‘Do Not’ instructions. They should display the prohibited action in a circular red band with a single diagonal line through it. The background of the sign is white with black command text.

Examples include ‘No Smoking’, ‘Do Not Use a Mobile Phone’, ‘No Unauthorised Entry’ and ‘No Entry’.  

Warning signs

A warning sign should make people aware of a nearby danger or hazard, such as hazardous waste, hot water, flammable or toxic chemical or electrical hazards.

These signs display a symbol relating to the hazard in a yellow triangle with black edging. Clear black text making the danger clear sits on a yellow background.

Mandatory signs

A mandatory sign encourages a specific behaviour and are used to enforce actions that must be adhered to in a specific environment. For example, a mandatory sign may be required on a construction site to ensure that people wear hard hats at all times.

Sometimes a mandatory sign will sit alongside an emergency sign, for example a ‘Fire Door’ emergency sign may be accompanied by a mandatory ‘Keep Clear’ sign.

A mandatory sign features a blue circle containing a white icon or pictogram, accompanied by white text within a blue background.

Emergency signs

An emergency sign provides information on emergency exits, first aid or rescue facilities and are used to identify doors, exits, equipment and facilities. These signs have a green background with a white icon and text positioned centrally.

Ensuring that you have adequate signage installed throughout the workplace is vital. It not only ensures that you adhere to health and safety legislation, but it also protects you and your workers from avoidable and costly accidents.

To find out how we can help you boost your workplace health and safety with high quality signage, get in touch today on 01285 650441 www.jpsonline.co.uk