3 min read

6 key tips to ensure your safety signs are effective

By Michael Selinger

[Ed Note: If your business carries hazards of any kind, you should use safety signs to alert workers and members of the public of the danger.

Safety signs are a simple but effective way to warn people of hazards and risks. They may also outline measures your workers should take to minimise risks to their safety.

Where should signs be used?
Safety signs should be used in the following areas:

  • anywhere containing a risk of serious injury, e.g. a fall risk;
  • tasks or areas where correct PPE needs to be worn, e.g. hearing protection for noise exposure;
  • wherever hazards exist that are not immediately obvious to a worker or member of the public, e.g. electromagnetic radiation;
  • anywhere that vehicles, including forklifts and mobile cranes, commonly travel;
  • anywhere containing dangerous goods or hazardous substances, including highly flammable or toxic materials;
  • confined spaces; and
  • anywhere that asbestos currently is or has recently been removed from.

6 key tips to make sure your safety signs are effective

Follow these tips to make sure the safety signs you use are effective:

  1. Use simple, clear language.
  2. Ensure the sign is located in an appropriate place, i.e. near the hazard or risk.
  3. Use symbols and diagrams that can easily be understood by all people in your workplace, including people who don’t speak English as a first language.
  4. Use bright colours to ensure the sign stands out.
  5. Make the sign clearly visible, with text large enough to be read from a distance.
  6. Ensure that workers are aware of the sign and know what precautions to take.

Below, Michael Selinger will outline some more reasons why safety signs are important and how they could help to protect your business from potential liability.

Remember, if you’d like to know more about implementing effective signs, refer to chapter S2 Safety Signs in your Health & Safety Handbook.

See you next time…]

How safety signs could help to reduce your liability

How many safety signs do you use in your organisation? It may be a simple question, but in answering it, think about whether your business uses enough signs and, if not, where else you should start using them.

Health and safety laws specify that some signage is mandatory. Signs for confined spaces or labels for pipes that contain hazardous chemicals are just two examples. Most businesses will also have standard emergency exit signs associated with building code requirements, as well as signs related to evacuation procedures. But should you be using more? And if so, which signs should you implement?

Advantages of using safety signs

There are a number of advantages in using safety signs. Not only do they serve as an alert or reminder to staff about particular hazards, e.g. forklifts operating in a particular area, they can also remind staff about correct procedures, such as speed limits or requirements to wear correct PPE when undertaking tasks.

Signs are also an effective way to overcome language or literacy barriers. It’s like that old adage, a picture tells a thousand words. Consider what signs you could implement in your organisation to transmit important safety information in a simple, clear fashion. It can only assist in reducing the risk of injury.

Signs have limitations

Signs have limited impact, however, when workers become too used to them and complacent about the safety measures they outline. Some workers may even intentionally disregard the warning. That’s why a sign on its own cannot be the single safety solution for controlling any particular hazard or risk – it must be used in conjunction with other controls.

How signs can reduce your liability

Increasingly, signs have come to serve a number of other purposes as well. While a sign will not remove your liability altogether should an incident occur, a number of jurisdictions have laws that limit claims for negligence against a business where the sign warned of an obvious risk. This becomes more significant if there are any high-risk areas within your worksite that members of the public could access. In order to limit any potential third party personal injury claims, a warning sign that identifies the risk will assist you or your insurer in resisting any claim for damages should an incident occur.

Warm regards,
Michael Selinger
Health & Safety Handbook

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