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Health and safety signs you should display in your workplace to stay OHS compliant

by , 08 May 2015
Safety signs all perform the same basic function of reducing injuries through awareness.

But there are differences between the signs and their functions. And you need to know what they are to make sure you're displaying the right ones! Because even if you're displaying a lot of signs, if they're not the right ones, you'll still be labelled non-compliant.

Read on to find out what the differences between the safety sign are. And which you must display by law...

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Three types of safety signs you need to know about


1. Emergency signs
Their purpose is to 'lead' people out of the building in dangerous situations. So because the power would probably be out, these indoor signs usually 'glow in the dark'.

Different standards apply to different countries around the world. BUT, globally, the signs must be:
•    Visible;
•    Able to hold their light for as long as possible – a minimum of 60 minutes; and
•    Able to withstand heat so that they do not melt in a fire.

In South Africa the SABS has set down the standards for safety signs in buildings. Building owners still have the choice of 'glow in the dark' or plain safety signs. But employees must be able to make sense of them in poor visibility.

The SABS controls the actual manufacture of these signs. But building owners can still decide where to display them.

2. Warning signs
The SABS says to use these signs to maintain the safety of operators, workers and visitors. Examples are 'High voltage' or 'Workmen overhead' or 'Danger' signs.

The purpose is to give safety instructions. These are your most common type of safety sign. They include every possible type of warning from 'No trespassing' to 'workmen overhead'. Warning signs include information signs, exit signs, rules and regulation signs, and speed limit signs.

Warning signs are usually pictures. They're very clear and specific so the sign can communicate a clear message to everyone.

As a general rule, square or rectangular signs are used to convey "information". An example is fire equipment signage.

Circular signs are generally instruction signs that must be followed. For example speed limit and no entry signs.

Triangular signs warn workers about danger. For example, 'Yield' or 'Slippery surface' signs.

As an employer, you need to know what shapes convey what messages.

Read on for the most important signs to have in your workplace…

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Signs you must display by law


3. Mandatory safety signs
Mandatory safety signs include emergency signs and safety signs. These are required by law!

They indicate straight instructions that are easy to follow. And if you don't display them, you're breaking the law!

Like all signs there are guidelines but no set rules as to their shape. The most important thing is that they convey information. Examples are prohibition signs that you and your employees can't ignore - otherwise prepare to face the consequences!

Here's a list of safety signs you must display in your workplace:
•    Caution signs;
•    Electrical power shut off;
•    Fire safety signs;
•    Fire signage;
•    Hazard signs;
•    Hazardous chemicals;
•    Important notice signs;
•    Restricted entry; and
•    Safety directional signs


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