Why safety signage in the workplace matters, what each sign means and how you can make sure you have all the safety signs you need to have a compliant workplace
Workplace safety should be a priority for any business, but most especially if your operations involve heavy machinery or chemicals.
The Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act of 2011 outlines protocols for business owners that aim to protect the health, safety and welfare of all employees as well as visitors in the workplace. One crucial component of WHS is workplace safety signage.
In an occupational environment, workers are always at risk – accidents can happen anytime. Safety signs are designed to prevent injury by making people aware of possible dangers and hazards in the workplace.
Inadequate signage is considered non-compliance within WHS laws. Without proper safety signs, employers could be held liable – or could even go to prison – if an unsafe work environment results in injury or death.
If you’ve been a supervisor, foreman or manager for a while, you’re already familiar with workplace safety signs. But what if you just got promoted or are starting your own business? In this article, you will learn the different types of safety signs and what they mean.
Safety signs mandated by Australian law
Australian Standards AS 1319:1994 outlines specific requirements for the design and installation of safety signs in an occupational environment.
Work signage should warn employees about hazards, regulate safety behaviour, and provide emergency information. There are seven categories of safety signs: mandatory, prohibition, warning, danger, fire, emergency information, and restriction.
WHS safety signs and their meanings
Although there are hundreds of different safety signs out there, only seven types are strictly required under Australian law. You’ll find these signs in any workplace in Australia, regardless of size or industry.
What they are for: to provide instructions on what MUST be done.
Mandatory signs tell people what to do. These signs often remind workers to wear PPE for the eyes, ears and feet. They may also indicate specific processes that need to be done before or during work to ensure worker safety.
What they look like: Mandatory signs have a white pictograph or black text inside a blue circle on a white background.
What they are for: to provide instructions on what MUST NOT be done.
Prohibition signs tell people what not to do. Restrict access with a NO ENTRY sign or put up a NO SMOKING sign in areas where people are not allowed to smoke.
What they look like: Prohibition signs have a black pictograph of the banned behaviour or item with a red circle and slash through it, set on a white background with black text.
What they are for: to identify and warn of objects, actions and hazards that may be harmful but are not life-threatening.
These signs warn people that they could get hurt. The most recognisable warning sign is SLIPPERY WHEN WET. You’ll also find warning signs on uneven surfaces, near boiling water, on forklifts, and where electrical shocks are imminent.
What they look like: Warning signs have a black pictograph inside a black triangle on a bright yellow background with black text.
What they are for: to identify and warn of objects, actions and hazards that may be life-threatening.
Danger signs tell people that these hazards or hazardous conditions could kill them. Workspaces that involve high-powered machinery, acid, high voltages and volatile chemicals should always have a danger sign.
What they look like: Danger signs display the word DANGER in white, capital letters on inside a red oval on a black rectangular background. In addition, the threat is written underneath in bold black text.
Fire safety signs
What they are for: to help workers and visitors quickly locate fire safety equipment.
Should a fire break out, do your employees know where the nearest fire alarm and fire extinguisher are located? Fire safety signs enable them to act quickly and prevent the fire from spreading. Put up fire signs near fire blankets, fire hoses, and other firefighting equipment.
What they look like: Fire safety signs are easy to spot with their bright red background and white pictograph and text.
What they are for: to help workers quickly locate first-aid equipment and emergency facilities.
If something goes wrong, employees must be able to respond quickly. That means locating the emergency telephone, first-aid kit, and emergency exits.
What they look like: Emergency information signs have a white pictograph and text on a green background.
What they are for: to indicate a limit on a certain activity.
Restriction signs are often written in numbers to indicate speed limit, vehicle weight, height limit, or other parameters.
What they look like: Restriction signs have a white background with a red circle and the limit number written inside in black font.
General information signs
General information signs are not included in AS 1319:1994. However, they are still vital in maintaining order and safety within the workplace. These signs include instructions for parking, housekeeping, logistics, accessibility, cleaning, safety practices, and company rules.
Although the law does not specify any material or size for workplace signage, it is recommended that pictographs measure at least 15mm and uppercase letters 5mm for every one metre of viewing distance.
Moreover, when signs are displayed in an area with poor lighting, the size of the sign should be doubled.
Your workplace, your responsibility
As a facility manager, you are responsible for ensuring that your place of business has the necessary signage to comply with Australian regulations.
You should be familiar with the Australian Standard AS 1319:1994 Safety Signs for the Occupational Environment as well as codes of practice relevant to your industry. These include requirements for location, mounted height, and visibility distance.
Contact Jennings Print for your safety signage needs
Looking for WHS safety signs for your workplace? Jennings has everything you need!
Newcastle’s number one printing team not only supply signs – we understand the intricacies of WHS regulations, and we are here to help you find the appropriate safety solutions for your particular circumstance.
Maybe you need something custom made? We can help there too! Just tell us what you need, and we’ll get it done in no time.