We’ve all seen them: pictograms on the wall cautioning employees to wear hard hats in certain areas, warning labels affixed to new machines, and large signage on fences at construction sites.
Safety signs are an integral component of preventing workplace accidents – but do we really understand what they mean?
An essential part of any successful Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) program is educating personnel about safety signage. The end goal is simply to keep everyone safe and to educate individuals to keep themselves out of harm’s way.
In this blog post, we’ll cover a crash course in OHS 101 – all you need to know about workplace safety signs and their meanings!
Workplace safety is one of the biggest priorities – especially if you work in manufacturing, warehousing or with chemicals and a crucial part of the OHS equation is workplace signs.
OHS signs and workplace safety signs and symbols are crucial when it comes to keeping your workplace safe. If you’ve been a site supervisor, forename or manager for a while, you’re probably intimately familiar with dangerous goods signs and labels as well as their meanings.
But what if you’ve only just been promoted to your position, or are starting your very own business and you need guidance regarding workplace signs?
Crash course: workplace OHS signs and their meanings
Observing proper health and safety signs in the workplace is essential for maintaining a safe and compliant environment.
OHS signs inform individuals of hazardous areas, required safety equipment, and any other necessary procedures to ensure workplace safety.
Common workplace OHS signs often follow “the pyramid of risk”; that is, a sign reflects the level of risk in an area.
These can include:
- Prohibition signs (such as “Do Not Enter”)
- Warning signs (“Caution: Beware of Moving Machinery”)
- Informational/mandatory signs (“Eye Protection Must Be Worn”)
Knowing how to decipher these different types of OHS signs in the workplace is important for any worker’s safety and well-being.
There’s no way for any one person to know each and every one of these OHS signs – however, there are a couple that you will find in just about any workplace in Australia, regardless of the size or industry.
Every day, the occupational environment puts its employees at safety risks of accidents and injuries that can happen anytime.
The creation and execution of these health and safety signs in the workplace lessen the risk and vulnerability of anyone from danger and other harmful situations inside the workplace.
Non-compliance to OHS laws – including inadequate signage or mistakes – can land your business in all sorts of hot water. You may even be held personally liable and sentenced to prison thanks to new industrial manslaughter laws.
If you’re keen to understand what your signage obligations are, these essential signs are a great place to start!
Purpose: to provide specific instructions that MUST be done.
Whether it’s legally-required PPE or specific processes that need to be undertaken before or during work to ensure employee safety, mandatory signs are, well, mandatory!
These workplace signs are blue-dominated, and are used to communicate what staff and visitors NEED to do in terms of equipment and practices. These can be used for workplace hazards that are required by law, to highlight parts of site policy or to promote common-sense safety steps.
Purpose: to communicate what must NOT be done.
Is there something that only a manager can do? Or something that no-one on site can do, end-of-story?
If so, you’ll need prohibition signs to communicate this.
Using a plain black pictograph of the banned behaviour or item with a red cross over it, prohibition signs are used to announce bans or specific areas that are off-limits.
Warning and caution signs
Purpose: to identify and warn of objects, actions and hazards that may harm you.
Using attention-grabbing yellow, these signs are used for hazards that aren’t immediately life-threatening. While death may be a consequence, the risk may be lower, or it may be more of a long-term consideration (as is the case with asbestos).
Hazard signs cover a wide range of different conditions, such as uneven surfaces, slipping hazards and electrical shocks, just to name a few.
Purpose: to warn about areas, materials and situations are life-threatening
With their striking red “danger” label and large black font, danger signs are an essential part of preserving life at your workplace.
For workplaces that deal with extreme hazards such as high voltages, acid, volatile chemicals and high-powered machinery, danger signs are a must-have, and should be placed near any potential danger.
While it may sound like overkill, this could end up saving a life!
Hazchem signs and emergency information panels
Purpose: to promote safe storage, handling and disposal of hazardous chemicals.
If you don’t deal with hazardous chemicals (that is, most businesses), feel free to skip this section.
If you do however, we suggest listening up!
Purpose: to inform workers of the locations of first-aid equipment, and to help during medical emergencies.
Each workplace needs a first-aid plan – they also need first-aid signs to go with them.
In a medical emergency, seconds count. Each moment spent looking for first-aid equipment could make the situation even worse.
First-aid signs can save precious time, decreasing the amount of time needed to administer first aid.
Fire safety signs
Purpose: to help workers and visitors locate firefighting equipment and to assist should a fire break out.
If a fire breaks out, do you know where the nearest fire extinguisher is located?
More importantly, how can you be sure that your staff know where to look?
This is the rationale behind fire safety signs. If you and your team don’t know where fire alarms and fire extinguishers are located, you’re essentially giving fires more time to spread.
These bright red signs help avoid this by indicating the location of fire equipment like blankets, fire hoses and more.
General information signs
Purpose: for everything else.
These are signages not required by Australian workplace safety laws – that said, they still serve an essential role in communicating housekeeping messages, general rules, cleaning, logistics and other safety practices.
Need something custom made? Our team also provides custom safety signs – just tell us what you need, and we’ll get it made and shipped to you, ASAP!
Looking for OHS workplace signs?
Signsmart has all the workplace signs that you need!
We don’t just supply workplace signs, either – our team understands that OHS regulations can be dense and hard to understand, which is why we’re here to help.
If you need help understanding your obligations regarding workplace safety signs and symbols, get in touch with Signsmart.
We’ll walk you through everything, including lesser-known consideration such as:
- Mounting method