Safety signs are an important part of our lives. We see them everywhere, from the street to the workplace. They tell us what we need to do, or not do, in order to keep ourselves safe. We see safety signs everywhere we go, but what do they mean? What are the different types of safety signs and what are their purposes? In this post, we’ll explore the different types of workplace safety signs and discuss what each one means for you and your safety. Stay safe out there!
Types of workplace safety signs
There are many different types of workplace signs you might encounter, each with their own unique design and shape. There are six types that are regulated by Australian standards, for safety signage prescribe that certain symbols should be used in specific circumstances. They also prescribe the colours, shapes, and what must be written on the sign.
A warning sign is something that indicates possible danger or hazard ahead. This could be anything from a wet floor, to uneven ground, to sharp objects. They are designed to make you aware of the potential risk so you can take the necessary precautions in order to stay safe.
The sign has a yellow background with the word ‘WARNING’ at the top, with a black triangle and a symbol underneath.
A danger sign is an indication of a risk that could lead to injury or death. These types of signs display the word DANGER in white on a red oval with a black background. These types of signs indicate that you should follow safety protocols precisely, as any deviation could cause serious harm.
A prohibition sign is something that tells you to not do something. It could tell you to not stand on the carpet, or to not use a particular machine. These signs are put in place for your safety and their placement is determined by experts – including occupational health and safety experts, as well as experts in the industry/field – to ensure that you stay safe. A prohibition sign has a red circle with a red diagonal line over the top of a black symbol.
A mandatory sign is something that tells you to do something. They are blue and feature a white symbol in the centre.
These signs usually indicate the need for specific safety equipment, such as ear protection or a hard hat. You will always see these signs in dangerous or hazard-prone work environments, where not following the rules could result in an injury. These types of signs indicate that if you do not follow the protocol, there will be severe repercussions.
Emergency Information Sign
These are tyically green and white signs that are always posted in dangerous/hazardous work environments. They tell you where first aid kits are, where the fire exits are located, and what to do in case of a chemical or biological hazard.
These signs let you know about fire safety equipment and are bright red so easy to see in an emergency. They indicate the location of fire extinguishers, fire blankets and hoses.
Non Regulated Safety Signs
Other safety signage will be general instructions or directions on how to safely use equipment in order to avoid injury. These are for general use in workplaces and inform employees about rules, regulations, potential hazards and safe practices. The wording on these signs should be concise and written in plain language so that workers do not need to use a dictionary to work out what they mean.
These safety signs indicate where a certain area or location can be found. For example, you may come across a sign that indicates the direction to the nearest exit. If you’re ever in trouble and need to get out quickly, it’s important that you know exactly where the exits are located so you don’t get lost trying to find them.
This sign indicates that there is an obstruction on the pathway, forcing someone to take another route in order to pass safely. The person may need to go around or even change direction completely, which may require extra care when doing so if it’s more dangerous than the normal path.
Using safety signs in your workplace
In some professions, using safety signage is compulsory – for example, road workers have to use them as part of their work. However, it’s not just those who hold a designated position that may need to put up and sort out signs – anyone could potentially benefit from knowing what the different types mean and what they should be used for.
If you’re looking for ways to keep your workplace safe, using safety signs is a great place to start. You can order customised ones online that suit the needs of your business, or simply use existing ones bought off the shelf from one of many stationery retailers. The important thing is not putting them up, but actually looking at them and following what they say. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to take advice from a professional or contact your regulator. You could conduct a risk assessment to determine if safety signage might be an advantage in your workplace.
Remember if your workplace has customers or visitors you also need to keep them safe and safety signs could be an easy way to do that.
In the construction industry in Australia there are many signs that are legislated in the regulation such as having a builders sign on the entrance to a construction site.
Guidelines state that builders/construction signs should be durable and appropriate to the environment they are in (e.g. waterproof or fit for outdoors). The colour choice needs to contrast with the background so that it can be easily seen.
They also recommend using symbols instead of text where possible, as this is more universal than words, which could cause confusion when translating them into other languages. Each state has laws around the information that needs to be included such as the builders name, licence number and contact details. This information needs to be easily viewed from a distance.
Safety Signage Toolbox Talk
Sometimes people become blind to the safety signs in the workplace as they have seen them so often, and they just become part of the background. So delivering a safety signage toolbox talk is a great way to remind employees of their importance and get them thinking about how they can stay safe.
When delivering the talk, it’s important to emphasise that safety signs are there for a reason and should never be ignored. It’s also worth highlighting any specific signs that may be relevant to the work being carried out at the time. For example, if you’re working with chemicals, you should point out the signs that indicate the dangerous substances.
You should also encourage employees to ask questions if they’re ever unsure about the meaning of a sign. It’s better to ask and get clarification than to ignore it and potentially put yourself in danger.
After the talk, it’s a good idea to put up some sort of reminder, such as a poster, in the workplace so that employees can refer back to it if they need to.
Find out more with 5 Toolbox Talk hints and tips to make your life easier.
How often should a safety sign toolbox talk be given?
It’s recommended that you deliver a safety sign toolbox talk at least once a year, but more frequently if possible. This will ensure that employees are always aware of the signs and their meanings, and it will help to refresh their memory if they haven’t seen them for a while. Plus, of course if you have new team members or have introduced new safety signage, then it’s an ideal opportunity to go through everything again.
How can Safe-R Outcomes help your business?
Our Professional subscriptions contain many essential documents including:
- WHS Management Plans / Safety Manuals
- SWMS (if the job entails high risk tasks)
- a range of SOPs, Registers, Toolbox Talks, Checklists and Policies
These can all be downloaded and are not blank templates, so can be used immediately.
We also provide Induction training to help you on-board new employees and contractors.
As you can see it is all done for you so it makes it nice and simple. You can find out more on the Industries and Professions page.
If you’re concerned about the time commitment and knowledge required to implement the correct documents, procedures and training for forklift safety, Safe-R Outcomes can help. We strive to reduce the time and cost for businesses to implement their legally necessary safety requirements.