Sign of the Times

Sign of the Times

15th October 2015

Wherever we go in this modern world, we seem to be surrounded by, almost assaulted by signs in many shapes and forms. We’ve become so used to signage (often in the form of advertising) that we often pass signs by without even noticing them – they’re part of the background visuals in our busy 21st Century environment. However, some signs are vital to our safety and we need to keep on the lookout for these on our streets, our roads, in our buildings and especially in our workplaces.

Signage plays an important role when it comes to health and safety in the workplace and, as you may have guessed, there is an international standard for consistent safety sign regulation across Europe which companies in the UK have to adhere to. The ISO 7010 prescribes safety signs for the purpose of accident prevention, fire protection, health hazard information and emergency evacuation. The shape and colour of each safety sign are according to ISO 3864-1 and the design of the graphical symbols is according to ISO 3864-3. The ISO 7010-2011 specifies the safety sign originals that may be scaled for reproduction and application purposes. There’s a full complement of downloadable ISO 7010 warning signs here.

ISO 7010 was first introduced in 2003 as a best practice recommendation and was updated in 2011 then BS EN ISO7010:2012 was adopted in the UK in 2012 in an effort to attain consistency of design of safety signs with the rest of Europe. With advancing globalisation a lack of standardisation can lead to confusion and increase the risk of accidents which is why the harmonisation of signage throughout the EU is vital. Before the UK adopted the BS EN IO 7010:2012, the BS 5499 applied until the British Standards Institution published the UK version as BS EN 7010.

The responsible person as defined in the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) and under health and safety legislation, has a duty to ensure that safety signs are compliant with BS EN 7010. They are required by law to identify hazards and mark the location of emergency equipment, means of escape and safety appliances with the appropriate signage. However, when the signage is installed, it’s absolutely necessary to follow best practice and ensure that health and safety regulations are adhered to, unlike this guy installing a Safety First banner!

Any company needing advice on safety signage should head over the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website where there is guidance for employers, duty holders and other who have responsibility for the control of workplaces, sites and premises. Safety signs and signals are required where, despite putting in place all other relevant measures, a significant risk to health and safety of employees and others remains.

Signs should be clear and legible and should be used to identify the following:

  • Any actions that are forbidden (such as no access)
  • Safeguards that should be followed (e.g. safety goggles or ear protectors should be worn)
  • Warning of hazards (e.g. corrosive material)
  • Direct people towards fire equipment, fire exits and first aid equipment.

Business owners and duty holders should be aware that using too many signs may cause confusion.