Safety Signs Blog

Making the perfect Custom Safety Sign

16th March 2011 | Health and Safety Signs, Warning Signs

Posted by David Arnold

The sales of most major safety sign makers fall into three key sections:

  • The top 50 or so signs amount to 33% of sales
  • A further 33% of signs are made up of the hundreds of other standard signs
  • The final third are specials

These are safety signs that are made to the requirements of the BS5499 that convey a message that may well be unique to that business. A good example of a special sign is one that says ‘Do not enter when the ‘on air’ bulb is lit’ – essential for maybe a radio or tv station but completely useless to anyone else.

When it comes to asking your safety sign supplier to construct the perfect special sign, there are four points you must consider.

Type of safety message

Under BS5499 there are five types of sign design. These are:
  • Prohibition Sign: Black text on red. Actions that are not permitted like do not touch, no entry and no parking.
  • Mandatory Signs: White text on blue. Actions that must be undertaken like goggles must be worn, wash hands and fire door keep shut.
  • Warning Signs: Black text on yellow. Used to highlight hazards and risks like hot water, sudden drops or harmful materials.
  • Safe Condition: White on green signs, covering everything from first aid to fire exits. These signs are used to hopefully assist with safety procedures within a building.
  • Fire equipment: White on red background. Covering items like fire extinguishers and fire alarm call points, this design must only be used for products relating to fire safety.

Whatever the message is that you wish to show, the sign type should be carefully considered. The biggest problem most customers ordering custom safety signs have is that they confuse prohibition with mandatory signs. For example, customers ask for the prohibition template to be used for a sign that tells pedestrians to walk in a certain direction. They ask for this primarily because there are other ways that the pedestrian cannot go.

There is also customer confusion between warning signs and mandatory signs. A good example of this is high visibility jackets must be worn. Although this is mandatory advice that must be followed, the customer asks for this sign to be made in yellow because they want to stress the point.

Finally in this section, if you are ordering yellow warning signs, consider what gradient of danger it possesses. If it is low risk that may simply inconvenience people then the sign should be prefixed with the word Caution. If it is a medium risk then prefix it with the word Warning. If it is high risk, with the potential to cause death, your message must be prefixed with Danger.

Type of Safety Sign Materials Used

If in doubt, choose 1mm semi-rigid plastic. This hard wearing material can be installed almost anywhere inside or out. However, if the sign is to go on to a flat and clean surface like a window, tiles or a mirror, then self adhesive vinyl is probably far more appropriate. Signs that go in kitchens or washrooms particularly fall into this category.

If the sign is to go outside, aluminium composite, sometimes called dibond, is possibly the best material for the job. Robust, hardwearing and extremely tough, this sign will withstand almost any weather condition.

Sign Size selection

Give some thought to how far away the sign needs to be seen from. For example if the sign says ‘Warning finger trapping hazard’ then this sign does not need to be very big. After all, if the person is more than an arm’s length away then the finger trapping hazard then it is simply irrelevant. It is only when they are close enough to get their hands caught that a warning message becomes essential.

Likewise, if you want staff and visitors to be aware this is a hearing protection zone, then this sign should be large enough so it can be seen from a distance.

Sign Text Length

BS5499 advocates good pictograms and short, concise text. Any sign containing over 20 words does not really fall into this category as it cannot be read at a glance. When devising your text please remember less is more – think about what is salient and keep it brief.

If you bear in mind all the above points, you will not go far wrong. And if you do go wrong, rest assured that a knowledgeable sign maker will likely flag any problems before they go to print.


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