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.

Warning sign

Warning 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. They are yellow and diamond shaped with a black symbol and the word ‘warning’ on them.

Danger Sign

Danger Sign

A danger sign is an indication of a risk that could lead to injury or death. These types of signs usually include the black and white DANGER sign, which features a diagonal line crossed by another one at 45 degrees. These types of signs indicate that you should follow safety protocols precisely, as any deviation could cause serious harm.

Prohibition Sign

Prohibition Signs

A prohibition sign is something that tells you to not do something. It could tell you to not stand on the carpet, or it could tell you 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 is coloured red and features a red diagonal line crossed by another one at 45 degrees, with the word ‘prohibition’ written on it.

Mandatory Sign

Mandatory Sign

A mandatory sign is something that tells you to do something. They are blue and feature a white symbol in the centre of a blue diamond.

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

First aid 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.

Fire Signs

Fire safety signs

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.

Directional sign

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.

Obstruction sign

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 can slow down their progress. They should take extra care when doing so as it’s more dangerous than walking along normally.

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.

Construction Signs

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.

construction site safety sign

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.


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