Legal Article - Health & Safety

Light, sound and actions

Illuminated safety signs, acoustic signals and/or verbal communications must be used where needed to signal danger, order a specific action or for emergency evacuation.

Illuminated safety signs must use the appropriate safety colours. They may be continuous or flashing but, if both modes are used, flashes should indicate a higher level of danger.

Acoustic signals must be audible above background noise without being excessively loud. If constant and variable frequencies are used the latter should indicate a higher level of danger. The evacuation signal must be continuous.

Messages communicated verbally must be as short, simple and clear as possible. They may be used together with gestures.

Hand signals and/or verbal communications must be used where needed to guide those carrying out hazardous or dangerous manoeuvres. They must be precise, simple, expansive, easy to make and to understand and clearly distinct from other signals.

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to use more than one type of safety sign.
For example, hand signals can be used to supplement verbal instructions, or an acoustic alarm meaning 'general danger' may alert employees, and then an illuminated warning sign may provide more specific risk information.

Where an employee's hearing or sight is impaired, for example by personal protective equipment, additional measures should be taken to ensure that warning signs can be seen or heard, such as increasing their volume or brightness.


Fire safety signs are also covered, whether needed to comply with these Regulations or specific fire legislation.


The employer's responsibilities are to:

  • Use a sign to warn of the danger of the hazard and inform of any precautions to be taken if a hazard exists

  • Ensure that comprehensible and relevant information on the measures to be taken in connection with safety signs is provided to each employee

  • Ensure that each employee receives suitable and sufficient instruction and training in the meaning of safety signs and the measures to be taken in connection with safety signs

There are five major areas where signs and markings have changed or are now required:

  • Signboards
  • Pipes
  • Identification and location of fire-fighting equipment
  • Obstacles and dangerous locations
  • Marking of traffic routes


Published: 23 Mar 2011


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