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

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations


The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 became law within the UK on 1st April 1996 and implement the EC Safety Signs Directive, adopted by all member states of the European Union on 24 June 1992. The intention of the Directive is to standardise workplace safety signs throughout the Union to ensure that they can be recognised and have the same meaning wherever they are seen.

In addition to traditional signboards such as warning and prohibition signs, the Regulations also cover fire safety signs (i.e., signs for fire exits and fire fighting equipment), hand signals, acoustic signals (eg, fire alarms), spoken communication, traffic route marking, illuminated signs and the marking of pipes and vessels.

What do the Regulations require?

Employers are required to provide specific safety signs wherever there is a risk which cannot be controlled by any other means, e.g. by engineering controls and safe systems of work. Where a safety sign would not help to reduce the risk or where the risk is insignificant there is no need to provide a sign.

A new requirement is the marking of pipework containing dangerous substances, such as corrosive, flammable, explosive or toxic materials.

There are specific requirements for the shape, colour and pattern of safety signs.

Any sign must contain a symbol or pictogram and be of a specified colour which clearly defines its meaning.

Supplementary text may also be used to aid understanding but text only signs are not permissible.

Employers are also required to:

•Maintain the safety signs provided by them. Any that become defective, e.g., through damage or fading, should be replaced
•Explain unfamiliar signs to employees to ensure that they understand their meaning and the actions to be taken in connection with them. The law has not been satisfied if signs are displayed without explanation.
The Regulations apply to all places of work, but exclude signs and labels used in connection with the supply of substances, products and equipment or the transportation of dangerous goods.

Key Action Steps

•Provide safety signs where necessary to warn of hazards, to prevent dangerous practices and to indicate safe exit routes and safe practices
•Ensure that all fire safety signs comply with the Regulations
•Ensure that all other safety signs already comply with the Regulations
•Make sure that all "text/word only" signs are replaced with pictogram signs plus text as appropriate
•Train all employees to ensure that they understand the meaning of the signs displayed and the actions to be taken in connection with the signs

Signs in existing buildings:

•All fire safety signs had to comply with the Regulations by 24th December 1998
•All other safety signs should already comply with the Regulations
Signs in new buildings:

•All signs in new and refurbished buildings must comply immediately with the Regulations.
Signs already complying with the technical requirements of BS 5378 (1987) Safety Signs and Colours and BS 5499 (1993) Fire Safety Signs, Notices and Graphic Symbols are deemed to conform to the Regulations and do not need to be changed. Most of these signs are already commonly used.

Other Requirements Placed on Employers

Road traffic signs must be used where necessary to regulate road traffic within the workplace.
The Regulations specify the type of sign to be used in dangerous locations (e.g. where there is a risk of slipping, falling from height, or where there is low headroom).

A code of hand signals for directing vehicles and workers involved in dangerous manoeuvres is specified.

Reference Documents

Safety Signs and Signals: Guidance on Regulations - The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. L 64.

Safety Signs and Colours. BS 5378 - 1987.

Fire Safety Signs, Notices and Graphic Symbols. BS 5499 - 2002.

Specification for the Identification of Pipelines and Services. BS 1710 - 1984.
I have this if its of any use

Attached Files
.pdf   signs and signals regs.pdf (Size: 297.52 KB / Downloads: 662)
Any opinions or comments i make, are my veiws and not that of my company or employer.

BAFE SP-201 accredited
LPS 1014 accredited

nice one thanks
Ignore the Euro exit sign in the attached ACOP, it's being withdrawn! (See emergency lighting forum section)
Anthony Buck
Fire Safety Technical Lead @ BAFE SP205 accredited company
Extinguisher specialist
I know british standards such as 5839 are not retrospective so a system installed in 2006 and conforming to 2002 standards does not have to be upgraded to 2008 spec (even though you can still obviously point out non-conformances to the most recent standard)

Question: Is the signs and signals 1996 regulation retrospective? For example if a system (in this example a deaf alerter with no battery backup or fault monitoring) clearly does not comply with the 1996 standards I presume it has to be upgraded when the regulations come into force?

I ask the question as if it was installed after 1996 it is clearly not compliant and was installed as non-compliant and should be replaced or upgraded. If it was installed before 1996 and was made non-compliant by new regulations does it have to be upgraded retrospectively? This will affect whether we replace it for free or get our customer to pay for it as it was never compliant in the first place.

Thanks for any replies.
I would first consult the installation design specification as this may specify the version of the standard that was required at the time.
If there was no contactual requirement at time of installation then you could consider whether the system is a legal requirement - are there any persons with special needs, - employees or visitors- for whom the system is provided as a risk control measure?

And if there are there are persons who may rely on the system, is the deaf alerter the best way of meeting these needs? Or could the system be replaced by alternative arrangements- eg visual alarms, buddies, PEEPS etc. Sometimes the client, on realising the cost of maintaining such systems, may prefer to find an alternative way of meeting persons special needs and may decide to remove the system.
thanks for your response kurnal.

there's no chance of the original spec. I've never seen one of those! But the risk assessment may still be available so I will check that.

There is a deaf person on site who does use the system so it is needed and she does carry and use the pager. We engineers identified areas with insufficient sounder coverage on site let alone beacon coverage especially considering en54-23.
Yes, the signs regulations applied to all relevant premises regardless of what was already in place on the day they were implemented in 1996 - the only grace was for fire safety signs that had until 1998 to be changed.

If you had just spent thousands on new exit signs & internally illuminated exit signs in 1995 and they were text only you still had to change them by 1998
Anthony Buck
Fire Safety Technical Lead @ BAFE SP205 accredited company
Extinguisher specialist

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