Colours and symbols appropriately used can provide ever-present information and warnings of hazards which are essential to safety at work, and in some instances may be independent of language
The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 require employers to provide and maintain safety signs where there is significant risk to health and safety that has not been avoided or controlled by other means (e.g. safe systems of work) provided that the use of a sign can help reduce the risk. All workplaces and activities where people are employed are covered (with exceptions relating to the transport and supply & marketing of dangerous substances, products and equipment). They also require, where necessary, the use of road traffic signs in workplaces to regulate road traffic. Employers must also ensure that all employees receive appropriate information, instruction and training regarding safety signs. Although most signs are self-explanatory, some employees (particularly young or new workers) may be unfamiliar with the signs used.
SO WHAT IS A SAFETY SIGN?
A safety and/or health sign is ‘information or instruction about health and safety at work on a signboard, a colour, an illuminated sign or acoustic signal, a verbal communication or hand signal.’ These terms are all detailed in guidance to the regulations.
A signboard is a combination of shape, colour and symbol or pictogram made visible by adequate lighting and which may have supplementary text.
Signboards, including fire safety signs, are designed as follows:-
Where the marking of dangerous locations is deemed necessary (e.g. highlighting the edge of a raised platform or area or restricted heights) yellow & black or red & white stripes may be used.
Traffic routes should take the form of continuous lines, preferably yellow or white.
Advice on fire safety signs can be obtained from your local fire authority. In general, where signs comply with the appropriate current standard (BS 5499) they will not require changes for the Regulations.
EFFECT ON EMPLOYERS-SAFETY SYMBOLS
Most firms already use safety signs to warn and instruct employees of risks to their health and safety. The signboards specified in the Regulations are already covered by the existing British Standard BS5378 and BS5499 ‘Graphical Symbols and Signs’. Equally, the law already requires suitable illuminated signs and acoustic signals to be used where necessary. Although the regulations specify a code of hand signals for mechanical handling and directing vehicles, they permit other signals to be used where necessary e.g. BS7121 Code of Practice for the safe use of cranes.
COMING SOON ISO7010
Large elements of the British Standard BS5499 symbols will soon be changing. Witin the next few months new symbols based on the international standard ISO 7010 will be introduced. The basic priciples of understanding safety symbols will remain the same i.e. colour and shape of out line symbol but some of the icons/symbols will change. Watch this space for more information as it becomes available.