Signs in the workplace are an important tool for informing workers and others who may be present of the hazards nearby, the precautions to be taken and the actions to be followed in the event of an emergency. They may be informative, prohibitive or instructive. They may also require that a mandatory safety action is taken. They may also include other devices such as tape or barriers warning of hazardous areas or enclosures.

Detailed requirements for safety signs are specified in legislation. The signs are standardised and must be used wherever an employer needs to give health and safety information, a prohibition or warning, or require a specific safety action using a sign or symbol.

Safety signs should not rely on the inclusion of text to convey their message.This is because the symbols or pictograms on a signboard are intended to be understood, independently of the language ability of the worker viewing it. However in many situations supplementary text displayed alongside the sign may be necessary to give interpretation.

Even if signs are displayed employers must still ensure that the meaning of signs and any supplementary text is fully understood by their workforce. This is particularly important where members of the workforce do not have English as their first language.

Regulations specify the colour and shape of signs for particular applications.

  • Red for prohibition
  • Yellow for caution
  • Green for positive action
  • Blue for mandatory actions
  • Discs for prohibitions and instructions
  • Triangles for warnings
  • Squares and rectangles for emergency and information signs