Open-access content Tuesday 4th June 2013 — updated 1.53pm, Tuesday 5th May 2020
To ensure the safety of staff and visitors, correct signage is essential. Stuart Barker explains how facilities managers can ensure it complies with health and safety requirements.
4 June 2013
A general aim for all facilities managers is to ensure that the organisation they work for has the most appropriate environment for its employees and any visitors to the site.
One element of this is to ensure that the building and site meets health and safety requirements, including displaying correct signage.
Such signs are an essential requirement in order to comply with specific legislation, as required, as well as prevent accidents or to help protect or offer guidance to those in
the vicinity, whether they are members of staff or the general public.
The first step towards understanding what signage is required is to undertake a
risk assessment to identify potential hazards and the risks they may pose to people working or visiting the site.
Every premise is different and so any risk assessment should be developed to meet individual circumstances.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992 states that safety signage is required if a risk assessment indicates that it is the only method remaining to reduce risk to employees. However, in today's media-centric world, any possible legal action could damage a firm's reputation.
Firms often install signage as standard in order to provide additional safeguards.
According to the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, employers are required to use safety signs where there is considered to be a significant risk to health and safety, which has not been avoided or controlled via alternative methods. It is important to note, however, that safety signs are not a suitable substitute for implementing other methods of risk mitigation, such as installing appropriate engineering controls or safe systems of work.
The regulations also require, where necessary, the use of road traffic signage with a workplace site in order to direct vehicular movements and ensure the safety of both drivers and pedestrians.
Another requirement is to provide signage where dangerous substances (or pipework that carries such substances) is stored.
All workplaces must display 'no smoking' signage on premises and within company vehicles, as failing to do so could result in the business being fined up to £1,000 if signage isn't displayed, and potentially up to £2,500 for failure to stop people from smoking within the workplace.
In addition to conventional visual signage, the regulations also include illuminated signs, acoustic alarms, hand signals or verbal instructions.
Once the relevant signage is in place, there is a legal duty for firms to maintain safety signs and ultimately ensure that employees receive adequate instruction and training into what the safety signs mean and the measures that must be followed as a result.
Also added to this is the requirement for every employer to display the Health and Safety Executive's 'Health and Safety Law' poster or provide each member of staff with a copy of the approved leaflet.
An FM's checklist
It is important to ensure that regular checks are undertaken to ensure that signage is appropriate and gives suitable guidance and warnings to employees and visitors.
Permanent signs must be used when notifying people of prohibitions, warnings and mandatory requirements, and also for locating and identifying emergency escape routes and first-aid facilities. Frequent audits should take place to ensure these are still clearly visible.
Do not overlook the importance of displaying temporary signage when ad hoc activities are occurring, which may present a new risk in the surroundings. For example, where cleaning is underway and signs regarding slippery floors are required, or temporary ladders or trailing cables, which need to be visible.
Ultimately, most risks can be reduced and controlled by taking steps at the outset. By documenting risk assessments, outlining the actions taken to manage the risk, including a summary of training provided, safe working practices employed, protective equipment available and signage used, it will work towards ensuring that all facilities comply with the
wide-ranging Health and Safety Executive regulations.
In order to simplify health and safety signage, a colour-coded system has been introduced:
Red - fire safety and fire fighting equipment, including escape routes, emergency exits, identification of fire-fighting equipment. Also prohibition signage - prohibiting behaviour or actions that are likely to create a risk to safety.
Yellow or amber- warning signage, which provides an instantly recognisable warning of a risk, such as hazardous or flammable substances. Hazard symbols are often regulated by law and directed by standards organisations.
Blue - mandatory signage, which instructs, advises and informs staff and visitors of an action that must be carried out in order to secure a safer working environment. This includes fire doors, escape signs or visitor site information.
Green - safe condition signage, including fire exits, refuge points, first aid or other emergency assistance equipment.
Stuart Barker, general manager, Weedoo Health and Safety Signs