Why Is Safety Signage So Important?
11th June 2020
Safety signage is an ubiquitous feature of public spaces and workplaces across the country. Wherever you go in the world of business, you’re sure to encounter signage reminding people to wash their hands, wear protective clothing or note the locations of fire escapes and extinguishers.
While some business owners may be tempted to skimp on safety signage for their own premises, its importance should be clearly understood - and there are many advantages to doing more than the legal bare minimum.
Today, we’re going to look at some good reasons to invest in health and safety signs for your business, and what makes a safety sign effective.
Types of safety signs
Safety signage can come in a variety of forms to fill any of numerous functions. Some common categories of safety signs include:
- Mandatory signs: This type of sign communicates to visitors or staff that some behaviour or protective gear is required on the premises (such as wearing a hard hat on a building site).
- Prohibition signs: Essentially the opposite of a mandatory sign - it’s a ‘must not do’ communication. Common examples include ‘no smoking’ signs, or ‘no entry’.
- Warning signs: These signs communicate the presence of a hazard - perhaps dangerous machinery or chemicals. These are usually yellow and black with an iconographic representation of the type of hazard.
- Safe condition signs: This type of sign is designed to give information about an action the person may need to take for their own safety. Common uses for these include marking the locations of fire exits, first aid kids, assembly points, and other things people may need to find to escape or resolve an emergency situation.
- Fire equipment signs: These signs are usually red-and-white, and mark the locations of fire extinguishers, alarm panels, blankets, and other fire-fighting aids.
These are the ‘classic’ categories of safety signage, although in recent times they have of course been joined by the increasingly familiar sight of coronavirus safety signs and stickers as businesses everywhere scramble to get them in place.
These pandemic safety signs can help to encourage social distancing and educate customers, visitors and staff about the measures being taken by the business to combat the spread of the virus.
Why invest in safety signage?
First and foremost, health and safety signage is in many cases a legal requirement. The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 give clear instructions about which types of signs your business must have, and the rules for the design of each type.
For example, safe condition signs such as those marking a fire exit have to be green with white text by law. This ensures consistency and clarity in an emergency - a panicking person will probably know what ‘type’ of sign they’re looking for when seeking a fire exit.
However, safety signage needn’t be all about legal box ticking, and depending on the business or the industry there may be benefits to going over and above the minimum requirements with these signs.
In any case, there are not yet (as of the time of writing, although this may change) any legal requirements as such for safety signs relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, although government advice and guidance has been published.
Installing coronavirus safety signage can make a big difference to customer and employee confidence alike. In a time when nobody wants to visit any business premises if they can possibly avoid it, appropriate signage can do a lot to reassure customers that their safety is being taken very seriously.
An apparent lack of safety standards can have a detrimental effect on employee motivation and productivity - whether their main concern is Covid-19, or any other workplace hazard. Investing in safety signage for your premises can help staff members and visitors understand that you care about their wellbeing and want to ensure that they stay as safe as possible while carrying out their duties.
Another benefit of additional safety signage can be stated very simply: it can help reduce workplace accidents. No business wants the potential liability or suggestions of negligence that a bad accident can bring - not to mention the legal costs and damage to their reputation.
Accidents involving customers and members of the public, on the other hand, can be even worse for a company’s reputation - but this type of disastrous PR storm can often be avoided with some forethought into appropriate safety signage and other precautions.
What makes a good safety sign?
A badly designed or poorly implemented safety sign could be illegal as well as ineffective - so it’s important to get it right.
A good safety sign should be:
- Compliant with regulations. Many types of safety signs are subject to legislation concerning their design, colour, placement, and the use of iconography. This ensures a consistent visual language across many different situations and means that an individual in an emergency will always know to look for a red-and-white sign if they need a fire extinguisher.
- Clear and readable. Especially for signs which may not be subject to regulations per se, and there can be more freedom in the design (as in the case of coronavirus safety signage), clarity should be the foremost priority. For best results, eye-catching colours and unambiguous lettering should be used to ensure the message is received loud and clear.
Safety signage should be up-to-date. If you’ve moved the location of your fire extinguishers or changed the official assembly point for an evacuation, you should alter your signage to match. The same goes for changes in health and safety legislation - if your signage is no longer in line with the letter of the modern law, it’s time to get it replaced.
Signs should also be kept in a good state of repair. If a sign has become damaged or dirty to the point that it is no longer useful, it should be repaired or removed in favour of a newer version.
Whether safety signage is needed to help communicate with the public during a pandemic - or a more routine factor of daily work - its value is consistent in that it can help prevent accidents and improve the confidence of customers and staff members alike.
In a way, social distancing signs and other coronavirus notices fulfil a similar function to ‘classic’ safety signs denoting workplace hazards or instructing children not to play on an escalator. Whatever the danger, safety should always be the primary concern - and good signage is one of the most powerful ways to secure it.
Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help with your safety signage needs - you can call us on 01233 625383 or contact us via the website.