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Safety signs and signals

Safety signs and signals



To ensure that signs and signals employed within the University are easily understood it is important that they conform to the relevant standards set by the following legislation.


Legal requirements

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 require that:


(1).   Safety signs should be provided and maintained where the risks to health and safety cannot be avoided by other means or there is a residual risk present even with other control measures in place;


(2).   Appropriate instruction, information and training in the use and understanding of safety signs should be provided to all employees;


(3).   An appropriate type of sign board using pictograms conforming to the standard given in the legislation should, where necessary, be put up. These standards are


  • Prohibition sign - Circle with a red outer rim and white background with a red line through a black pictogram means the item depicted in the pictogram is absolutely prohibited e.g. if the pictogram is a cigarette then Smoking is prohibited;


  • Warning sign - This is a triangle with a black edge and a yellow background with a black pictogram indicating what the hazard is e.g. if the pictogram is a skull and cross bones, then there is a toxic chemical hazard present;


  • Mandatory sign - This is a circle with a white edge and a blue background and a white pictogram and indicates that the item indicated by the pictogram must be performed e.g. if the pictogram is a face with ear defenders then ear protection must be worn at all times in this area;


  • Escape or first-aid sign - This a square or rectangular sign with a white edge and green background and a white pictogram. If it is an emergency exit sign it will show a white running man with an arrow showing the direction of the emergency exit. If it is a First-Aid sign it will have a white cross in the centre of the green background;


  • Fire-fighting signs - This are square or rectangular signs with a white edge and red background with a white pictogram which indicates the type of fire fighting equipment at this location.


(4).   Text may be added to the safety sign to help with the understanding of the sign;


(5).   Safety signs should be placed in an appropriate place;


(6).   All containers and pipes should have appropriate labels attached to them if they contain a hazardous material. The signs should indicate what the hazards are and other relevant information. The signs for use in pipelines should conform to British Standard BS 1710 (Specification for Identification of Pipelines and Services);


(7).   All obstacles should be clearly marked with yellow and black striped (or red and white stripes) tape;


(8).   All alternative emergency exits must be identified and appropriate signs installed;


(9).   All new fire extinguishers should be marked according to the BS EN 3 standard which is a red body with the option of coloured markings identifying the type of fire extinguisher e.g. black for CO2 extinguisher, blue for powder extinguisher etc.


(10).  The position of all fire fighting equipment should be identified using appropriate signs;


(11).  Fire alarms should be audible above the general background noise in the workplace. All members of staff and students should know what the fire alarm sounds like.


Action by heads

The Head of the School/Unit should ensure that:


  • An assessment of all risks has been performed and that where necessary appropriate signs are put up. It is the responsibility of the School/Unit to provide the appropriate sign. Note: Where the sign is a building requirement e.g. emergency exit signs, the University will provide the signs;


  • All signs are maintained in good condition and replaced when unreadable;


  • The actions required by mandatory and prohibitory signs are implemented and enforced;


  • All pipework containing hazardous substances are appropriately marked e.g. by fixing appropriate labels at sampling and discharge points;


  • Where necessary appropriate instruction, information and training is provided to staff;


  • All alternative emergency exits have been clearly identified and appropriate signs put up. Where there is inadequate signage, the Head of the School/Unit should contact Estates and Buildings on this matter;


  • The position of all fire extinguishers is identified using appropriate signs;


  • All members of staff and students are made aware of what the local fire alarm sounds like.



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Environmental Health and Safety Services contact details

University of St Andrews
Bute Building Queens Terrace
St Andrews
KY16 9TS
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1334 462750
Fax:44 (0)1334 462747