The System of Safety Signs at Workplaces

The System of Safety Signs at Workplaces

Safety signs are an important part of good health and safety management as well as a legal requirement in all workplaces. This guide explains the system of safety signs that must be used in Irish workplaces.

Safety signs

Basic Principles of the System of Safety Signs

What is a safety sign?

A safety or health sign is a sign referring to a specific object, activity or situation and providing information or instructions about safety, health, or both, at work by means of a signboard, a colour, an illuminated sign, an acoustic signal, a verbal communication or a hand signal.

What is a signboard?

A signboard is a sign which provides specific information or instructions by a combination of a geometric shape, colours and a symbol or pictogram, without written words, which is rendered visible by lighting of sufficient intensity.

What is a supplementary signboard?

A supplementary signboard is a sign used together with one of the signs covered by the definition of signboard (above) and which gives supplementary information, including, where appropriate, information in writing.

The Design of Safety Signs

All safety signs used in a workplace must comply with these design principles.

Colour-coding System

The system for signboards is based on traffic light colours: A fourth colour, blue, is used for mandatory signs and to convey information.

Geometric Shapes

The shapes of the signboards are standardised:

Geometric Shape, Meaning, Colour and Intrinsic Features of Safety Signboards

The instructions in the table below apply to all signs incorporating a symbol/pictogram.

Geometric Shape Meaning or Purpose Safety Colour Intrinsic Features
Prohibition Prohibition Red Round shape with a black symbol/pictogram on a white background with red edging and a diagonal bar. The safety colour red must cover at least 35% of the surface of the sign.
Mandatory Mandatory Blue Round shape with a white symbol/pictogram on a blue background. The safety colour blue must cover at least 50% of the surface of the sign.
Hazard Hazard Warning Yellow or Amber Triangular shape with a black symbol/pictogram on a yellow background with black edging. The safety colour yellow must cover at least 50% of the surface of the sign.
Safe Condition Emergency escape
or first aid
Green Rectangular or square shape with a white symbol/pictogram on a green background. The safety colour green must cover at least 50% of the surface of the sign.
Fire Equipment Fire-fighting Equipment Red Rectangular or square shape with a white symbol/pictogram on a red background. The safety colour red must cover at least 50% of the surface of the sign.
Supplementary Supplementary
Information
No
specific
colour
Black wording on a white background or safety colour with wording in a contrasting colour.


Colour, Meaning and Information on Safety Signs

The instructions in the table below apply to all signs incorporating a safety colour.

Colour Meaning or Purpose Instructions and information
Red Prohibition sign Dangerous behaviour (e.g. a 'No Smoking' or 'No Entry' sign).
Danger alarm Stop; shutdown; emergency cut-out devices; evacuate (e.g. the emergency stop button on equipment).
Fire-fighting equipment Identification and location
Yellow or amberWarning Be careful, take precautions, examine (e.g. chemical hazard, electrical shock risk).
BlueMandatory Specific behaviour or action required (e.g. 'Fire Door Keep Shut').
GreenEmergency escape, first aid Doors, exits, escape routes, equipment, and facilities
No danger Return to normal


Combinations of shapes and colours and their meaning for signboards

The table below shows how a shape is combined with a safety colour to form a signboard.

  Circle Triangle  Square or Rectangle
Red Prohibition   Fire-fighting equipment
Yellow or amber  Caution, possible danger  
BlueMandatory   Instruction or information
Green    Emergency escape, first aid; no danger

Categories of Safety Signs & Examples

Prohibition Sign

A prohibition sign is a signboard or supplementary signboard prohibiting behaviour likely to incur harm or cause danger.

Signboard Supplementary Signboard Signboard Supplementary Signboard
No Smoking  No Pedestrians Supplementary  Do Not Touch  No Unauthorised Personnel Supplementary

Warning Sign

A warning sign is a signboard or supplementary signboard giving warning of a hazard or risk.

Signboard Supplementary Signboard Signboard Supplementary Signboard
Drop  Danger Supplementary  Explosion  Trip 

Mandatory Sign

A mandatory sign is a signboard or supplementary signboard requiring specific behaviour.

Signboard Supplementary Signboard Signboard Supplementary Signboard
Safety Footwear Must Be Worn  Eye Protection Must Be Worn  Use Guards  Fire Door Keep Shut 

Emergency Escape or First-aid Sign

An emergency escape or first-aid sign is a signboard or supplementary signboard giving information on emergency exits or first-aid or rescue facilities.

Signboard Supplementary Signboard Signboard Supplementary Signboard
Fire Exit Right  Emergency Telephone  First Aid Sign  Push Pad To Open 

Fire-fighting Sign

A fire-fighting signboard sign is a signboard or supplementary signboard giving information on the identification and location of fire-fighting equipment.

Signboard Supplementary Signboard Signboard Supplementary Signboard
Call Point  Fire Point  Hose Reel  Dry Riser 

Information Sign

An information sign is a sign providing information other than that referred to in prohibition, warning, mandatory or emergency escape or first-aid signs.
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