SAFed Health and Safety Passport Scheme

Module 12 — Safety signs


This document forms one of a series of modules on various health and safety subjects that comprise the examinable material considered necessary for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

When you have studied this module you should have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to answer the questions detailed at the end of the module.  Upon satisfactory completion of all modules, you will be eligible to undertake the final assessment for the award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport.

The SAFed Health and Safety Passport is issued to Engineer Surveyors by the Health and Safety Manager of their employing company upon satisfactory completion of the Safety Passport final assessment.

The award of the SAFed Health and Safety Passport provides evidence that the holder of the Passport has the appropriate knowledge and awareness in health and safety matters considered necessary for an Engineer Surveyor to undertake the duties for which they are authorised by their employing company.

The passport is valid for a maximum of three years.


Having read this module you should be aware of:

·         The purpose of having safety signs at work and the ability to recognise the different types of safety signs that can appear in the workplace.


The health and safety laws, which cover this module, are:

·         The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996

·         Chemical (Hazard Information and Packaging For Supply) Regulations 2002

(The bulk of the signboards are the same as those in BS5378 Safety Signs and colours)


Engineer Surveyors must be aware before entering any workplace of the dangers inherent on that site, this is the duty of the owner of the site under Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.  This duty is normally satisfied by giving an induction to the site by either video presentation or walking round the site in the company of a “chaperone”.  Only when they are confident that they are aware of the hazards on the site should they be allowed to work alone.

Safety Signs are a means of communicating a wide range of health and safety information to people at work and are to be found in all places, they are not a substitute for the other methods of controlling risks such as engineering controls and safe systems of work.

The main aim of safety signs is to provide a message which, is readily understood.  As a result there are standard colours and images, known as pictograms, which are understood internationally.  The addition of the text to the pictogram makes the message unambiguous.

Under the regulations, the signs must:

·         Be maintained and kept clean.

·         Be explained to employees

·         Be durable and securely fixed

The different types of signs are as follows:  

PROHIBITION These are most probably the most common signs in a workplace that certain behaviour could increase or cause danger.  
MANDATORY These signs indicate actions that MUST be carried out in order to safeguard individuals.
WARNING   These signs are designed to make people aware of nearby hazards.
SAFE CONDITION   Typically used to show escape routes, emergency exits and first aid equipment.  
FIRE FIGHTING SIGNS Used to mark the location of fire fighting equipment and fire alarm call points or where equipment is not obvious or clearly visible.
PIPELINE MARKINGS   Used to mark the contents of or services of pipelines.  These markings are used to ensure that the contents are clearly visible for both safety and maintenance.  


The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 bring into force the EC Safety Signs Directive (92/58/EEC) on the provision and use of safety signs at work.

The purpose of the Directive is to encourage the standardisation of safety signs throughout the member states of the European Union so that safety signs, wherever they are seen, have the same meaning.

The regulations cover various means of communicating health and safety information including the use of signs, hand and acoustic signals (e.g. fire alarms), spoken communications and the marking of pipe-work containing dangerous substances.

The regulations apply to all places and activities where people are employed, but exclude signs and labels used in connection with the supply of substances, products and equipment or the transport of dangerous goods.

Regulation Requirements

The regulations require employers to provide specific safety signs whenever there is a risk that has not been avoided or controlled by other means (e.g. by engineering controls and safe systems of work).  Where a safety sign would not help to reduce that risk, or where the risk is not significant, there is no need to provide a sign.

The regulations require:

·         Where necessary, the use of road traffic signs within workplaces to regulate road traffic.

·         Employers to maintain the safety signs which are provided by them.

·         Employers to explain unfamiliar signs to their employees and tell then what they need to do when they see a safety sign.  


Safety signs are coloured and intended to inform in a precise manner:  


A Red annulus with red diagonal bar indicating that certain behaviour is prohibited e.g. No smoking. 


A Blue circle with a white legend and/or graphics indicating a specific course of action to be followed e.g. Facemask must be worn.  

WARNING A yellow triangle with a black edging indicating a warning of a possible hazardous condition, e.g. Danger - Flammable Gas

A Green square or any green notice with white legend and/or graphics conveys information about safe conditions, e.g. Fire Exit.  


A red square or any red notice with white legend and/or graphics


A new requirement in the Regulations is to mark pipe-work containing dangerous substances, for example by identifying and marking pipe-work at sampling and discharge points.

The same symbols or pictograms need to be shown as those commonly seen on containers of dangerous substances, but using the triangular-shaped warning signs as detailed in section 12.8 of this module.

It is strongly recommended that the whole pipeline is colour coded where practicable and not just marked with tape or stickers, which can easily be removed.  


The Chemical (Hazard information and packaging for supply) Regulations 2002  or CHIP are intended to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of dangerous chemicals by making sure users are supplied with information about the dangers.  In broad terms, CHIP requires chemical suppliers to decide if the chemicals they supply are dangerous according to a set of rules.  Dangerous chemicals must then be suitably packaged, provided with labels incorporating appropriate danger symbols and accompanied by additional information for safe use (such as safety data sheets).

Safety data sheets must be provided with all dangerous chemicals and must contain information under the following headings:

·         identification of the substance/preparation and company

·         composition/information on ingredients

·         hazards identification

·         first aid measures

·         fire fighting measures

·         accidental release measures

·         handling and storage

·         exposure controls/personal protection

·         physical and chemical properties

·         stability and reactivity

·         toxicological data

·         ecological data

·         disposal

·         transport information

·         regulatory information

·         other information

·         Safety data sheets vary widely in quality and should never be treated as an authoritative source of information.



You have probably seen an orange label on many containers in the workplace.  For example, such labels appear on bottles of strong detergents and tins of paint.  These chemical products or substances are labelled because they can irritate your skin, your eyes, or the mucous membranes in your nose or mouth – either because they are corrosive or because they are harmful to your health in other ways.

This means that the orange labels are warnings for you!  The labels warn you against the dangerous properties of the chemicals so that you can protect yourself and your surroundings as well as possible.

When you take a careful look at one of the orange labels, you will find that there are always one or more phrases associated with the label:

-          R phrases — risk phrases that inform you about the risk.

-          S phrases — safety phrases that tell you how to protect yourself or the environment.

If you see a symbol that tells you that the substance is an "irritant", the R phrase might be "Irritates eyes".

The S phrase might then be something like "Upon contact with eyes: rinse carefully with water and consult a doctor".

You will also see that the orange danger symbols have one or more letters attached to them.  These letters might be Tx, T, or F.  The letters tell you about the dangers of the substances.  Here is a list of the danger symbols, with the most dangerous substance listed first:

Fire hazard  

E          Explosive

Fx        Extremely flammable

F          Highly flammable

O         Oxidising

Health hazard

Tx        Very toxic

T          Toxic

C         Corrosive

Xn        Harmful

Xi         Irritant  

Environmental hazard

N         Dangerous for the environment  

Chemical substances and chemical products which are mixtures of fluids, powders, or gases must also be labelled.  For mixtures of many substances, the labelling depends on how much the mixture contains of the various chemical substances.  Chemical products must always be labelled as strictly as possible for health and fire hazard.  For example, a product which contains both irritant and toxic substances must have the danger symbol for "Toxic" combined with the letter "T" as shown on the illustration below.  If the product is flammable as well as toxic, it must be labelled with two danger symbols, one for the fire hazard, and one for the health hazard.  For example, it might be labelled with a "T" and an "F".

Products such as cosmetics, furniture, clothes, and paper are not chemical products and so don't need to be labelled. 

Danger Symbols:


Very toxic




Harmful to health








Extremely flammable


Highly flammable





Dangerous for the environment


Danger labelling and the EU

Danger labelling and classification is the same all over the EU.  This means that the orange danger symbols you see in the UK are the same in Italy, Germany, and Spain – and in every other EU Member State.

The list of dangerous substances

The EU has a list of chemical substances that may be dangerous in one way or another.  This list is available on the Web.  As you will have read in this book, dangerous substances must be labelled with one or more of the danger symbols.  You now also know that this applies to chemical products that contain one or more of these dangerous substances.  The rules are somewhat different for substances that haven't been assessed by the EU.  In this case, manufacturers must assess the dangerous properties of the product, label it, and make instructions for its use.

What can you do?

-          It would be best if you avoid products with danger symbols – you will often be able to find other products that are milder.

-          Read the instructions carefully whenever you have to use products with danger symbols.

-          Protect yourself! Use protective goggles, rubber gloves, etc., as recommended in the instructions.

-          Make sure that you throw away products with danger symbols in a safe manner.

12.9     End of module and next steps

Well done!  By reaching this point you will have finished studying this particular module.  You should now have sufficient knowledge to answer the questions contained at the end of the module.

Answers to the questions should be forwarded to your Health and Safety Manager.

Provided that you have answered the questions correctly, your Health and Safety Manager will forward to you your next self study module

To answer questions on Module 12 Click here