Modern business is built on technology. Everything from cloud computing to the Internet of Things (IoT) drives business forward. Those companies not willing to keep up with technology run the risk of being left behind. However, there is one exception: workplace safety. Health and safety signage in the workplace is a surprisingly low-tech and effective method of promoting safety.

The thing about workplace safety is that we often take it for granted. It is not hard to imagine some industries for which safety is a major priority. Construction and manufacturing immediately come to mind. But even in an industry without such obvious safety concerns – like technology– those simple things that could make workers safer are too often ignored.

Health and Safety Signage Regulations

Different entities in different countries regulate health and safety signage. In the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the prevailing authority. In the UK, we have been subject to EU regulations for decades. Our voluntary exit from the EU now means that signage regulations are subject to the British Standard.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is now responsible for making sure businesses adhere to guidelines involving signage. It would appear as though they are relying on the Health and Safety Regulations 1996 as their primary guidance. The most recent update of said regulations occurred in 2015 and brought the British Standard in line with European Commission standards.

Mentioning all of this is meant as a reminder that business owners have regulations to look to regardless of their individual jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions are more rigid about their signage requirements. Others, not so much. It is up to employers to check with the appropriate agencies to ensure they comply with signage regulations.

Warnings and Reminders

Signage cannot physically prevent anyone from taking unnecessary safety risks. Yet they still have a vital function. Health and safety signs act as warnings and reminders. The point of using them is to continually remind workers about those safety issues inherent to their jobs. The more they are reminded, the more they are likely to pay attention to such issues.

According to the ‘Health and Safety Signage – How to Guide‘ put out by the UK’s Seton, signage in Britain is classified by colour. There are four different colours for signs:

  • Yellow – Yellow signs are safety signs designed to warn workers to take precautions within their individual environments. For example, a yellow safety sign might warn about hazardous chemicals. The signs often include a thick, black border and a picture illustrating the hazard.
  • Red – Red signs are warning signs alerting workers to certain risky behaviours. They are often known as prohibition signs because they warn of prohibited activities. For example, a no-smoking sign presents an image of a burning cigarette surrounded by a red circle with a line through it.
  • Blue/White – Blue signs with white lettering are known in Britain as mandatory signs. They are so named because they present mandated behaviour. For example, certain employees might be required to wear safety gear while on the job. A blue and white sign reminds them of that responsibility.
  • Green – Green signs are emergency signs. They are designed to direct people in terms of where to go during an emergency. A green sign may indicate an evacuation route or direct someone to a first aid station.

Sometimes, health and safety signage is different in other jurisdictions. Yet regardless of what signage looks like, its purpose is the same wherever it is displayed: to warn people of safety risks and encourage safe behaviour. Signs do that without the need for electricity, CPUs, computer memory, the cloud, etc.

Every Business Has Its Risks

The most important thing to remember about health and safety is that every business has its inherent risks. Sometimes those risks are not obvious. Yet they still exist. Just as an example, every business is now exposed to the risks of coronavirus and COVID-19. Installing signs throughout a company’s premises can remind employees to keep an appropriate distance from one another.

Every business is also subject to the risk of fire. So at a minimum, every place of business should have signage directing people to the nearest fire exits. Certain types of businesses obviously need more signage.

A tech company dealing with highly sensitive hardware might deploy halo-carbon or carbon dioxide fire extinguishers at various locations throughout the premises. Red signage would direct employees to those locations as needed.

Just about every business needs at least some health and safety signage. It would be hard to find any business not operated out of a home that doesn’t need a few basic signs. In the end, health and safety signage represents a surprisingly low-tech method of encouraging people to behave in a safe manner. It works – and very well at that.

Harry Wilson is the Head of Digital Marketing Department at Globex Outreach. He helps clients grow their online businesses and occasionally writes blogs to share his experience with other professionals.


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