Safety signage – what do I need?

By Craig Carlyle, director at Maintenance Transformations

Knowing what safety signs to use and where can sometimes be daunting, so let’s make it simple.

Safety sign requirements for buildings and industry are detailed under NZS/AS 1319:1994. Health and safety signage meet the following criteria:

1. To regulate and control safety related behaviour;

2. To warn of potential hazards where necessary; and

3. To provide emergency information, including fire protection.

Types of safety signs

Danger signs – Hazards that can kill

The word ‘danger’ and the red oval inside a black box must be displayed to the exact dimensions and colour outlined in AS/NZS 1319:1994.

Examples: keep out, asbestos removal, flammable, high voltage.

Warning signs – Hazards that can injure

Warning signs should be yellow with a black triangle and include an image of the hazard.

Examples: slippery surface, forklifts in use, risk of electric shock.

Prohibition signs – Things you must not do

A simple image with a red circle around and a red diagonal line through. It should be displayed up front and large so there is no misunderstanding.

Examples: do not drink, no entry, no smoking.

Mandatory signs – Things you must do

Mandatory safety signage includes a large blue circle with simple images and clear instructions underneath.

Examples: wear protective clothing, wash hands, PPE for COVID-19 safety.

Emergency and fire signs – Things that will save you

White text on a green background. A red background on a sign indicates the location of a fire extinguisher or other fire equipment.

Example: exit, fire extinguisher, first aid.

Common business safety signage

Exit safety signs

Signs need to be clear, visible, easy to understand, and illuminated. All exit signs should be visible even during low-light conditions.

Hazardous substances signs

If you handle or work around chemicals, hazardous substance signs are required. These signs should contain information in English about what materials are and how to react in case of an emergency situation. This includes information on flammability and potential health risks and should be able to be read from 10 metres away in low light or in rain.
Signs should be placed near hazardous substances but not require endangerment to read. Signs must be at all entrances, (vehicular or pedestrian).

Safety signs What not to do

  • Ensure that regardless of opening doors or gates, your signs are always visible. If you were to put a sign on a wall that gets covered when a door is open, you will not comply even if your sign meets all other legal criteria.
  • Signs should be clear and easy to read at all times and should always have accurate information displayed.
  • Check your signage regularly for cleanliness, general condition, and appropriate information (particularly with hazardous substances).

Craig Carlyle is director at Maintenance Transformations. His expertise lies in the practical application of maintenance and health and safety management systems in the workplace. He is also a life member of the Maintenance Engineering Society of NZ.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.