Workplace Safety Signage Guide

Workplace Safety Signage Guide

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Good signage warns workers about hazards, regulates safety behaviour or provides emergency information while complying with specific regulations regarding design and use.

The seven categories of safety signs include danger, warning, prohibition, mandatory, restriction, emergency information and fire.

The different categories have different requirements for their design and symbolism which are outlined in the table below according to the Australian Standards.

While there are no specifications for size or material, it is recommended that pictograms or symbols be 15mm and uppercase letters be 5mm for every one metre of viewing distance.

So if your workers are viewing a prominent sign in a well-lit area from a distance of ten metres, the pictogram should be at least 150mm (15cm), while the uppercase letters should be a minimum of 50mm (5cm).

Where signs are not well-displayed and lighting is poor it is recommended that the size of the sign should be increased by at least 50 per cent.

Sign Type
Use
Design/Symbols
Examples
Danger
Warn against hazards or hazardous conditions/environments that are likely to be life-threatening.
‘DANGER’ in white letters on a red oval with a rectangular black background. Text underneath this is in black on a white background.
High voltage
Confined spaces
Asbestos
Warning
Warn against hazards or hazardous conditions/environments that are NOT likely to be life-threatening.
Yellow background with a black triangle. A black pictogram is usually inside the triangle and any text below is also in black.
Forklifts
Boiling water
Prohibition
Indicate that an activity or behaviour is not permitted.
Red circle with a slash through it over the top of a black pictogram representing the action. White background and black text.
No smoking
Mandatory
Give instructions which must be followed.
A white pictograph placed on a blue circle with a white background and any text in black.
Wearing specific PPE
Restriction
Place a limit on an activity. Often but not always numerical.
Red circle with the limit inside in black letters, numbers or imagery. White background and black text.
Speed limit
Vehicle weight or height limits
Emergency information
Give the location or directions to emergency facilities
Green background and white text or pictographs.
First Aid stations and equipment
Exits
Fire
Give the location of fire alarms or fire-fighting facilities.
Red background and white text or pictographs.
Fire extinguishers
Fire blankets

It is the responsibility of the person conducting the business or undertaking to ensure that their workplace has the necessary signage to comply with regulations.

Different requirements exist for different situations so employers and WHS officers should familiarise themselves with the Australian Standards and codes of practice relevant to their workplace circumstances.

This includes the Safe Work Australia Code of Practice for First Aid in the Workplace which recommends that automated external defibrillators and the entrances to first aid rooms or health centres should be clearly signed.

Multiple standards also exist relating to fire safety installations, some with very specific requirements for signage.  For example, fire extinguishers must be accompanied by a sign to indicate their location, with minimum requirements for the sign’s mounted height and visibility distance.

In terms of workplace accidents, signage sits at the administrative level of the Hierarchy of Control and, along with PPE, is part of the last line of defence.

Some hazards may have specific regulations which must be complied with regarding signage, such as confined spaces and asbestos.

Hazardous workplace chemicals must also have labels which comply with regulations otherwise suppliers are not allowed to supply them to workplaces.

The label must include information on the hazards, safe storage, handling, use and disposal of the chemical.

Further to labels, employers and OHS officers should also be aware of regulations regarding placards and signage necessary for hazardous chemicals in the workplace.

Click here to download the full safety signage guide.