Building companies are legally required to display construction signs, in particular health and safety signage, to reduce the risks to their employees, contractors and visitors. In this post, we’ll look at the legal responsibilities that construction companies have and explain how to use signage in a way which is compliant with European regulations and UK law.
When do construction signs need displaying?
Construction sites are busy working environments that pose lots of potential risks to health and safety. With heavy plant, machine tools, hazardous materials, electricity, heights and various other hazards to consider, signage can make a significant contribution to improving safety. As an employer, you are required to display a sign whenever there is “a significant risk to health and safety that has not been removed or controlled by other methods.” Depending upon the nature of the project, that could mean a significant number of signs are needed, however, a sign is only required if it has the potential to lower the risk.
The decision whether to use a sign or not should be based on a risk assessment. These assessments are compulsory (see: Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999) and their aim is to identify risks and to put in measures that prevent or control them. Where prevention cannot be guaranteed and there is still a potential risk, construction signs must be used.
What is a construction sign?
There are various forms of construction sign. One of the most important is the general use “Construction Site” warning sign that should be displayed at the entrance to the site and at key places on site to remind employees, contractors and visitors that there are potential hazards to be cautious of. Equally as important are the signs which prevent unauthorised access to the site (or to parts of it), such as “No Entry” or “Entry Prohibited”.
Aside from these signs, the majority of the signage needed on the site will be health and safety signs used for specific purposes, such as requiring protective clothing to be worn or warnings about a trip hazard.
What are the most common construction signs
The most common form of sign is the signboard, a flat sign attached to a wall, door or fence. These use an internationally recognised system of colours, shapes, symbols and icons as well as text and are used for a range of purposes, for instance:
- emergency signs, e.g. emergency exit
- warning signs, e.g. trip hazard
- prohibition signs, e.g. no unauthorised entry
- mandatory signs, e.g. safety helmets must be worn
Effective use of constructions signs
Construction signage needs to be placed in the location where it will have the most impact on safety, such as on entrance doors or adjacent to machinery. They should be at a height that makes them easy to notice (e.g., signs for truck drivers will need to be higher than signs for those on foot) and easy to read. They should also be fully visible at all times, not obscured by other objects. If necessary, they should be illuminated, too.
Maintaining your signs
Construction sites are not the cleanest or tidiest of places and it is possible that signs may become dirty or even damaged because of the nature of the environment. If this happens, the signs can become ineffective and increase the risks to people on the site.
For this reason, EU regulations stipulate that all health and safety signs are effectively maintained to ensure they function properly. Signboards, for example, should be regularly inspected and cleaned so that any layers of dirt are removed. Where a sign has been damaged in a way that prevents it from functioning effectively, it should be replaced.
What makes a good construction sign?
One of the most important features of a good construction sign is its size. To function effectively, it needs to be large enough and its symbols and text clear enough to be seen and understood across the area it is meant to protect. Sometimes, it may be necessary to have multiple versions of the same sign placed around the area to ensure that the warning is always visible.
As most construction sites are heavy duty areas, any signs used should be able to withstand the knocks and scrapes they are likely to receive. They also need to be firmly secured to make sure they stay in place.
If you are an employer in the construction industry, hopefully, this post will have explained your obligations regarding the use of signs on construction sites, as well as showing you what kinds of signs you need and how to display and maintain them.
If you require construction signage that will help you comply with regulations, check out our range of health and safety signs. We provide signs in a vast range of sizes, materials and messages, as well as information signs for everything from washroom hygiene to smoking.