This post is an extract of the current Health & Safety laws in England & Wales L64 (Third edition) Published 2015 – you can view the full guidance document here.

30 This part aims to help employers comply with their duties to select, make effective use of, and maintain safety signs. The technical requirements of the Regulations relating to the various types of safety signs are explained.

General rules on the Use

31 The signs shown in Schedule 1 of the Regulations are to be used when it is necessary to convey the relevant message or information specified in the Regulations.

32 If the hearing or sight of an employee is impaired, for example by wearing personal protective equipment, additional measures should be taken to ensure that employees can see or hear the warning sign or signal, for example by increasing the brilliance or volume.

33 In some cases, more than one type of safety sign may be necessary, for example, an illuminated warning sign indicating a specific risk combined with an acoustic alarm meaning ‘general danger’ to alert people, or hand signals combined with verbal instructions.


34 All safety signs must be properly maintained so that they are capable of performing the function for which they are intended. This can range from the routine cleaning of signboards to regular checks of illuminated signs and testing of acoustic signals to see that they work properly.

35 All safety signs should maintain their intrinsic features under power failure – either from emergency lighting or phosphorescent material – unless the hazard is itself eliminated by the power failure.

Safety colours

36 In these Regulations signs incorporating certain colours have specific meanings. Table 1 identifies the colours for safety signs generally (for fire safety signs, see Part 3).

Table 1 Safety sign colours (excluding fire safety signs)



Meaning or purpose

Instruction and information


Prohibition sign Danger alarm

Dangerous behaviour; stop; shutdown; emergency cut-out devices; evacuate

Yellow Amber

Warning sign

Be careful; take precautions; examine


Mandatory sign

Specific behaviour or action, eg wear protective equipment


Emergency escape First-aid sign

No danger

Doors; exits; escape routes; equipment and facilities

Return to normal

Using signboards

37 Where signboards are used in a workplace, ensure that they are sufficiently large and clear to be easily seen and understood. For example, when describing available equipment the safety sign should show clearly where that equipment is. All safety signs require adequate illumination and size should be appropriate for intended viewing distance; information can be found in BS 5499-4:2013 and

BS 5499-10:2014. Signboards should also be durable, securely fastened and properly maintained (eg washed or resurfaced) to ensure they remain visible.

38 Permanent signboards are necessary, except in cases where the workplace or hazard is temporary. Even in these cases safety signs must still be consistent with the requirements of the Regulations. For example, use of a portable warning sign by cleaners may be necessary if a hazard such as a slippery floor exists for a short period.

39 Take care to avoid using too many signboards in close proximity.Signboards are only effective if they can be seen and understood. If too many signs are placed together there is a danger of confusion or of important information being overlooked.

40 If circumstances change, making a particular signboard unnecessary (ie if the hazard no longer exists), it is important to ensure its removal so that misleading information is not displayed.


41 Small differences from the pictograms or symbols shown in Schedule 1 of the Regulations are acceptable, providing they do not affect or confuse the message that the sign conveys and as long as the resultant sign still meets the relevant identified ‘intrinsic features’. For example, the pictograms within BS EN ISO 7010 can be used to comply with the Regulations.

42 If Schedule 1 of the Regulations does not contain a suitable signboard then it is acceptable to design your own, providing it conforms to the general principles described in the Regulations. However, where the warning sign is to be used on a room storing material or containers used at work for chemical substances or mixtures (classified as hazardous according to the criteria for any physical or health hazard class) subject to the CLP Regulation, you must use one of the signs in

paragraph 3.2 of Part II, Schedule 1 or, if there is no equivalent warning sign, the relevant hazard pictogram, as laid down in Annex V to the CLP Regulation, must be used.

43 If a pictogram needs to be designed it should be as simple as possible, containing only necessary detail. Guidance can be found in BS ISO 3864-1:2011 and BS ISO 3864-4:2011, where design principles that can be followed are described. The principles will ensure the pictogram is understood for the application and will meet the geometric shape and colour required by the Regulations.

44 Pictograms used in signs should be as simple as possible and contain only necessary detail. BS EN ISO 7010 contains examples of varied signs which may be useful. As an example, the following emergency escape route pictograms are from BS EN ISO 7010.


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45 It may sometimes be useful to supplement a safety sign with text to aid understanding. This may be important, for example when introducing a new or unfamiliar sign, or using a general danger or warning sign. In these cases, the meaning is reinforced if the background colour of the supplementary sign is the same as the colour used on the safety sign it is supplementing.

46 Any supplementary sign or text used with a particular safety sign must be chosen to reflect the same safety sign category. So, for example, if a mandatory sign is used, ensure that accompanying text (if any) describes the mandatory nature (using the word ‘must’ rather than ‘should’ or ‘may’) of the action to be taken, such as ‘Face protection must be worn’.

Signboards appearing in Schedule 1

47 The intrinsic features of the four types of signboards referred to in Table 1, and also fire safety signs, are described below. Examples of each type of sign are also included. You may also use variations of these signs as long as they retain the ‘intrinsic features’ described in each section or use the signs in BS EN ISO 7010, which has been developed and provides more variations, particularly of the fire exit/ escape signs.

Prohibitory signs

Intrinsic features:

  1. (a)  round shape;
  2. (b)  black pictogram on white background, red edging and diagonal line (the redpart to take up at least 35% of the area of the sign).
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No access for unauthorised persons

Smoking and naked flames forbidden

No smoking

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No access for pedestrians

Not drinkable

Do not extinguish with water

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No access for industrial vehicles

Do not touch

Warning signs – General

48 The ‘Harmful or irritant material’ warning sign (black cross on a yellow triangle warning sign) which previously appeared in the Regulations was removed by regulation 3(4)(c) of the CLP (Amendment) Regulations. Where employers would previously have used this they should now use the most relevant warning sign from the others available. Where the warning sign does not relate to the CLP Regulation new designs of pictograms may be developed as long as they are clear and meet these intrinsic features.

Intrinsic features:

  1. (a)  triangular shape;
  2. (b)  black pictogram on a yellow background with black edging (the yellow part totake up at least 50% of the area of the sign).
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    Flammable material or high temperature*

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    Explosive material


    Toxic material

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    Corrosive material

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    Radioactive material

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    Overhead load

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    Industrial vehicles

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    Danger: electricity

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    General danger

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    Laser beam

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    Oxidant material

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    Non-ionising radiation

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    Strong magnetic field

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    This sign has been deleted from the list by the UK CLP Regulations and should not be used

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    Biological risk†

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    Low temperature

    Harmful or irritant material



    * In the absence of a specific sign for high temperature.
    † Pictogram laid down in Council Directive 90/679/EEC of 26 November 1990 on the protection of

    workers from the risks related to exposure to biological agents at work (Seventh individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) OJ No L374, 31.12.1990, p1.

    Mandatory signs

    Intrinsic features:

    1. (a)  round shape;
    2. (b)  white pictogram on a blue background (the blue part to take up at least 50%of the area of the sign).
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    Eye protection must be worn

    Safety helmet must be worn

    Ear protection must be worn

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    Respiratory equipment must be worn

    Safety boots must be worn

    Safety gloves must be worn

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    Safety harness must be worn

    Face protection must be worn

    Safety overalls must be worn

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    Pedestrians must use this route

    General mandatory sign (to be accompanied where necessary by another sign)

    Emergency escape or first-aid signs

    Intrinsic features:

    1. (a)  rectangular or square shape;
    2. (b)  white pictogram on a green background (the green part to take up at least50% of the area of the sign).

    Emergency exit/escape route signs



    Examples from BS EN ISO 7010



    Supplementary ‘This way’ signs for emergency exits/escape routes

    49 For emergency exit signs for safe exit routes (Safety signs. Code of practice for escape route signing BS 5499-4:2013 applies) care should be taken that ‘This way’ arrows for emergency equipment location (red background direction arrows) are not in contradiction with escape direction.


    1. (a)  rectangular or square shape;
    2. (b)  white pictogram on a red background (the red part to take up at least 50% of

      First-aid signs

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      First-aid poster



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      Safety shower

      Emergency telephone for first aid or escape

      Firefighting signs

      Intrinsic features:

    the area of the sign).


    Fire hose

    Fire extinguisher



    Examples from BS EN ISO 7010


    Emergency fire telephone

    Fire extinguisher

    Fire alarm


Supplementary ‘This way’ signs for firefighting equipment

50 Care should be taken that the use of arrows to indicate the direction to emergency equipment cannot be confused with direction of escape and should not be in contradiction. If there is a risk that confusion may arise which could result in those evacuating a building being misdirected, you should consider whether these signs should be used.

Warning signs – Chemical labelling and packaging

51 These labels do not appear in Schedule 1 of the Regulations but in Annex V to the CLP Regulation.

52 There are no intrinsic features laid down for the labels under the CLP Regulation. You must use the most appropriate sign of those available and cannot create variations.

53 These labels do not form part of the Regulations but have an impact on signage used with hazardous substances and mixtures which have resulted in changes to those Regulations.



GHS hazard pictograms

Gas under pressure




Serious health hazard


Health hazard

Hazardous to the environment

Using signs on containers and pipes

54 Containers, tanks and vessels used in the workplace for hazardous chemical substances or mixtures, and the visible pipes in the workplace containing or transporting hazardous substances and mixtures, should generally be labelled with the relevant pictograms in accordance with the CLP Regulation.

55 There are, however, a number of exceptions:

  1. (a)  it may not be necessary to affix signs to pipes where the pipe is short and connected to a container which is clearly signed, such as a welding set;
  2. (b)  containers need not be labelled where the contents may change regularly (for example chemical process vessels and pipework which are not dedicated to one substance). In these cases, employers must have other arrangements for ensuring that employees know the hazardous properties of the contents of the container; for example, employers could provide suitable process instruction sheets or training for employees.

56 The CLP (Amendment) Regulations amend the provisions relating to containers and pipes. Where these containers or pipes are not excepted and are used for, contain or are involved in the transporting of hazardous chemical substances and mixtures, they must be labelled in accordance with the CLP Regulation, using the relevant hazard pictogram from Annex V to the CLP Regulation.

57 However, the CLP (Amendment) Regulations also permit use of the hazard warning symbols specified in other systems so labels can be:

  1. (a)  replaced by warning signs from Part II of Schedule 1 of the Regulations, provided they contain the same pictograms or symbols. If there is no equivalent in Part II, the relevant hazard pictogram from Annex V of the CLP Regulation must be used;
  2. (b)  supplemented by additional information, eg about the risk or the hazardous chemical;
  3. (c)  in the case of containers transported at the place of work, supplemented or replaced by EU applicable signs.

Confusion is unlikely to arise since similar pictograms are used in the different types of signs. What may differ are the shape and the colour of the signs.

58 Where signs or labels are used they may be supplemented by additional information, such as the name of the hazardous substance or mixture and details of the hazard.

59 The signs or labels must be mounted on the sides that are visible and to be durable. Labels can be in self-adhesive or painted form.

60 When deciding where signs or labels should be placed on pipework containing hazardous substances it is important to avoid causing confusion, so do not use too many signs.

61 Signs or labels will be most useful at points where employees are likely to be exposed to the contents of the pipework, for example sampling or filling points, drain valves, and flanged joints which are likely to need periodic breaking. Where there are long pipe runs on which points of potential exposure are infrequent, labels or signs may also be displayed at intermediate points. Note that these Regulations do not cover the colour coding of pipes. However, BS 1710:2014 Specification for identification of pipelines and services may be of further interest since it provides guidance on the use of different colours and safety signs to identify the contents of pipework and the associated risk.

Using signs to mark areas, rooms and enclosures

62 It is important to mark those areas, rooms or enclosures used for the storage of significant quantities of hazardous substances or mixtures by a suitable warning sign, unless the warning labels on individual containers are clearly visible from outside or nearby. Note that marking requirements for explosives stores are dealt with in the Manufacture and Storage of Explosives Regulations 2005.6

63 Where stores are being used for hazardous chemicals or mixtures they should be indicated by the relevant warning sign taken from paragraph 3.2 of Part II of Schedule 1 of the Regulations (the yellow triangle black pictogram warning signs). If there is no equivalent warning sign in these provisions then the relevant hazard pictogram from Annex V to the CLP Regulation must be used. Stores containing a number of different substances may be indicated by the ‘general danger’ warning sign.

64 The signs or labels referred to above must be positioned, as appropriate, near storage areas or on doors leading into storage rooms.

Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990 (the NMS Regulations)

65 The provisions in the Regulations for marking stores containing dangerous substances overlap with the requirements of the NMS Regulations. Site entrances to most stores containing 25 tonnes or more of dangerous substances must be marked under the NMS Regulations. The purpose of the marking is to provide information to the fire and emergency services attending an incident at the site. However, the primary function of the Regulations is to provide information to employees. The signs to be used under both sets of Regulations are very similar and signs complying with the NMS Regulations, on sites where they apply, will in general also satisfy the marking requirements of the Regulations. The NMS Regulations do not apply offshore.

Using signs to mark obstacles, dangerous locations and traffic routes

66 The Work at Height Regulations 2005 are concerned with preventing injuries caused by falls from heights or from being struck by falling objects. Regulation 13(5) and (6) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (the Workplace Regulations) includes requirements to prevent injuries caused by falling into, for example, a tank or a pit. In many cases, fall protection measures such as secure barriers are required to prevent falls. However, where the risk is low or where it is impracticable to safeguard by other means, marking the dangerous location in accordance with Part V of Schedule 1 will be necessary – for example, highlighting the edge of a raised platform or area where objects may fall using markings consisting of yellow and black (or red and white) stripes, as shown overleaf:


Signs for marking obstacles and dangerous locations

  1. 67  The stripes are at an angle of 450 and more or less of equal size.
  2. 68  Regulation 17 of the Workplace Regulations includes requirements for

indicating traffic routes within workplaces where necessary for reasons of health and safety. Part V of Schedule 1 of the Regulations requires the markings to take the form of continuous lines, preferably yellow or white, taking into account the colour of the ground.

69 Traffic routes in built-up areas outdoors do not have to be marked if suitable pavements or barriers are already provided.

70 The Regulations do not require outdoor traffic routes to be marked in areas that are not built-up. This is because risks to the health and safety of employees are likely to be low. However, there may be cases requiring either use of clearly defined traffic routes or safe systems of work (possibly including the use of banksmen to direct traffic) to help meet general duties under the HSW Act, eg when vehicles are operating (particularly during reversing) close to employees working on foot.

71 In some cases it may not be possible to mark traffic routes clearly by means of painted lines, for example in underground coal mines. In these cases other measures may be necessary to ensure that pedestrians are not put at risk by vehicles.