Safety Signs Blog

Why you should warn intruders of potential dangers with a warning sign

4th August 2011 | Warning Signs

Posted by David Arnold

During the recent hot weather I found myself putting up a Prikka-strip (other brands are available) to deter passers-by from using my garden as a short-cut to the shops at the rear. This small plastic spike product was supplied with a warning sign. Measuring no more than 3 inches wide, it was black text on a white background. My fist thought is that the manufacturers had obviously not considered the British Standards or indeed ISO 7010 when deciding on the layout of this sign!

As I laboured over what should have been another straightforward DIY task three questions came to mind:

  • At three inches wide, does it matter it cannot be seen from a distance?

  • Does it matter that the sign supplied was non compliant with BS5499?

  • Why am I installing this sign anyway?

Whilst the first question is easy to answer the second two are less so...

  • At three inches wide, does it matter it cannot be seen from a distance? In short, no: Whether it’s for household use or for business use, the would-be intruder only needs to read the sign when he or she is about to assail the fence, wall or wherever it is in positioned. The one caveat to this is that if you buy a number of lengths of this spike product then this small sign would have to be installed at very regular intervals. In other words, if the sign can realistically be seen from only 3 metres away, then it would be prudent to ensure signs are installed at 3 metre intervals. Conversely, if the sign was significantly larger, the installer would need less of them.

  • Does it matter that the sign supplied was non compliant with BS54? Most people that work in the industry pass off pictograms on safety signs as being best practice. In other words, BS5499 says signs should be used with pictograms to help aid and improve comprehension levels. Being a British Standard, this is not the law – therefore, a sign with a pictogram is not a legal requirement.

    However, it is worth remembering that BS5499 is consolidated by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations that states that suitable pictograms should be used. In essence, the Regulations state that if you feel a safety sign is the best way of communicating a risk then the ‘signboard’ employed should use a symbol, ideally alongside supplementary text.

    The only caveat to the above is that these Regulations apply to workplaces. Businesses should take note of the above. However, as my sign was for residential use it can be argued that a text only sign is enough.

  • Why am I installing this sign anyway? Finally, the single most important question! As a household (rather than a business) the sign’s primary purpose is to make someone think twice about climbing the fence. In truth I would rather he or she turned back at the earliest convenience rather getting as far as the prikka strip, hurting his/her hand and then taking any anger out on my freshly painted gate or fence!!

If I was a business I would be installing it for different reasons. Although often this is a grey area in the eyes of the law as a basic principle as a business owner I would have to warn staff and visitors that there is a potentially dangerous protection strip that may harm them. Regardless of whether the visitor was wanted at the building, if he or she goes on to harm themselves on this property without adequate warning and/or instruction on the risk posed, then my business could be liable.

Indeed, even if the police felt their was no case to answer as the intruder should not have been doing what he was doing, the same intruder could go on to bring a civil action against me and my business – resulting in damages being awarded to the injured party.

Whether it is right or fair is not the issue. Using warning signs to warn of potential risks is an essential way of ensuring your business goes on to concern itself only with the important day-to-day issues, without getting distracted or damaged by an injured intruder seeking compensation.


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