Safety Signs Blog

Selecting the right safety sign material is just as important as choosing the right message

17th December 2010 | Health and Safety Signs, Warning Signs, Fire Exit Signs

Posted by Darren Joint.

From a sign making view point it is usually cheaper to print on to self adhesive vinyl than any other material type. In turn this makes self adhesive vinyl safety signs the cheapest to buy. Often however, going for the cheapest option is a false economy – with its purchase leading to customer frustration at buying a sign that may not be fit for the job they intended it for.

Before considering this point in detail, for clarity, please note this article is not suggesting self adhesive vinyl is a poor material to make safety signs from. It is great when used in the right way. Rather than messing around with problematic screws in all four corners or the messiness of using silicone, self adhesive vinyl signs are easier to install and, being thinner and lighter than most, they are less costly to transport and easier to store.

Self adhesive vinyl safety signs (or stickers as many people refer to them) are also ideal for affixing to flat, smooth and clean surfaces like glass, tiles, mirrors and doors. Assuming the sign is fitted indoors onto any of these materials, self adhesive vinyl will form a strong and permanent bond across the whole of the sign’s underside. With no air or water able to get through to the adhesive layer, the safety or information sign should last as long as the business needs it to.

However, as the first paragraph alluded, there are inherent limitations with self adhesive signs……

When affixing the safety sign the installer will invariably use the palm of his or her hand to rid the sign of air pockets. In doing so, he or she will put energy into the sign and slightly stretch it. If it is stretched in anyway, over the next few weeks and months, the sign could slightly contract in size, sometimes resulting in a slight peeling in the corners.

It is perhaps worth noting that “peeling corners” only really happens where the sign is affixed on to a less than smooth surface. Where the sign is affixed on to say wood, brickwork and even plaster board, air can be the element that affects the sign the most. Hot or cold, this air can dry out the adhesive, meaning that although the sign looks great when it first goes up, its aesthetic appearance and effectiveness could easily wane over time.

So what’s the alternative? Well if in doubt, the advice of many sign makers is to choose rigid plastic. Great for installation inside or out, 1mm rigid plastic can be used for almost any application. Using silicone or screws, this sign will never contract in size and will remain hard wearing and robust throughout its life. Invariably, with most rigid plastic signs, the one weather element that most affects them is the sun. Like most other materials, a sign positioned outside or inside in direct sunlight can be affected by the UV, with the BS5499 colour-coding fading to the point where the message may not be instantly visible. However, this process takes years rather than months, something that really should not put many buyers off going for rigid plastic.

So in summary, if you are looking to buy signs with messages like ‘slippery surface’, ‘wash hands now’, ‘turn off these lights’, ‘fire door keep shut’ or ‘caution hot water’ then self adhesive should always be considered. As long as the sign is to be affixed to a surface that smooth and flat, the sign will never look unsightly or start to lose adhesion. However, if it is to go on to almost any other surface, the buyer’s first port of call should be rigid plastic or, in the case of emergency signs, photoluminescent rigid plastic.


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