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The Different Types of UK Safety Signs

Safety signs provide a fast and easy way of communication for all. They help your business comply with Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 by delivering clear and legible instructions. The signs also decrease the risk of workplace accidents as they create a safer working environment. They are a common sight in hazardous workplaces such as factories and construction sites, but even safer workplaces must ensure that they use the correct signage to keep their staff and visitors safe.

There are thousands of different signs available, but understanding which ones your business needs becomes much easier when you break them down into the four main safety sign categories.

Prohibition Signs

Standard no smoking sign

These are a critical type of sign as they prohibit behaviour that is likely to cause a risk to health or safety. These actions are prohibited because they usually either do not conform to the rules or practices of specific environments or because they may pose a risk of injury or harm to others.

Legal requirement

Prohibition signs are required under the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. This is because they instruct and inform of dangerous behaviour or evacuation; therefore, employers are responsible for ensuring everyone is informed of the risks.


Prohibition signs are red – which indicates danger – and mainly consist of a circular red band with a single diagonal cross line descending from left to right at a 45-degree angle. They have a solid white background that provides a clear contrast to the red and also have black imagery indicating the command's nature.

Other prohibition signs have a red background with contrasting white text and imagery that makes the sign highly visible.

Photoluminescent Prohibition Signs are ideal for emergencies such as a fire. Signs like our Fire Point Location Sign are manufactured from photoluminescent rigid PVC, so they are highly visible even in low light, ideal for places where signs must be seen at all times.

They work by containing chemicals that can absorb and store energy from daylight or artificial lighting. When the source of energy is removed (hence: night-time), the chemicals can release the energy in the form of light.


Warning Signs

Dangerous chemicals warning sign

Hazard Warning Signs are designed to make your workplace safer and compliant with UK legislation.

Legal requirement

These safety warning signs are required by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 and, in specific cases, by the Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990. As they often form part of regulatory requirements, warning signs are vital in any potentially dangerous situation.


They consist of a bright, eye-catching yellow background with a black outline of a triangle. The triangle contains the imagery which indicates the type of hazard, and there is also black text underneath, which includes the appropriate text for the hazard.

All of our signs here at First Mats conform to ISO 7010, which ensures that symbols are easy to interpret, clear and unambiguous.

We have a comprehensive range of warning signs for all common workplace dangers, including electricity and x-rays.


Mandatory Signs

Eye protection must be worn prohibition sign

Mandatory signs increase awareness of health and safety in the workplace by indicating actions that must be carried out to comply with statutory requirements. Sometimes known as blue signs, avoid the need for face-to-face communication of what safety precautions are expected and thus save you, your employees, and visitors time.

Legal Requirement

Mandatory signs clearly state specific actions or behaviours to be implemented within a workplace or area of public access. This allows you to comply with all Health and Safety legislation and protect everyone from risk. It's important to note that the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 does not apply to mandatory fire instructions but does apply to health and safety mandatory signs where pictograms are required.

The minimum regulatory requirement is for the sign to include an appropriate pictogram. Still, because there are no pictograms for fire safety instruction signs, the standard text-only signs can be used and remain in place[1].


Mandatory signs usually consist of a blue circle with the pictogram or text in white positioned centrally. There is also a rectangular box in which all the vital information is written clearly and coherently.

There are a wide variety of different mandatory signs, including those for PPE. Knowing which ones you need can be confusing, which is why at First Mats, we have signs for fire doors, personal protective equipment, cleaning and more. For more info, you can access our full range of horizontal, vertical, and square-shaped mandatory signs.


Emergency Signs

Standard First Aid Safety Sign

Emergency signs, also known as First Aid signs, contain crucial information on what to do in the event of an emergency. They help to keep your workplace safer by detailing vital information such as where first aid kits can be found, who trained first aid personnel are, and correct emergency procedures.

Legal Requirement

In the same way, as for mandatory signs, some emergency safety signs in this category are not required by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. However, signs with no pictogram, such as ‘PUSH BAR TO OPEN’, are still needed for compliance with other UK legislation.[2]


Emergency signs appear as a green rectangle or square with the imagery or text in white positioned centrally. These include emergency showers, eyewash areas, where first aid equipment can be found, and many more. 


What other types of signs are there?

Aside from the four main categories listed above, there are some other types of signs which can be very useful to have around your workplace. Using these specific signs can help your workforce feel safer and allow your business to be portrayed in the best light.

Car Park Signs

Disabled parking only sign

Whether you have a private or public car park, car park signs help users become well informed of the guidelines that apply. They help to direct and manage the parking environment; for example, if an area is off-limits to unauthorised personnel, a sign can make this - and the consequences for infringement – very clear. They can also guide motorists to where disabled parking can be found.

Car park signs should be visible to ensure that all motorists who plan to use the parking are well informed. The messages conveyed with our signs include disclaimers about parking rights and liabilities and warnings about unauthorised parking.

Our full range of car park signs includes both self-adhesive vinyl and self-adhesive PVC signs.


Fire Safety Signs

ABC Powder fire extinguisher safety sign

Fire Safety Signs are the cornerstone of effective fire and health and safety compliance. Each sign is designed to communicate valuable information effectively and quickly in the case of an emergency - showing where alarms are located and instructions on extinguisher use, fire door rules and potential hazards.

There are many benefits to displaying fire safety signs, including complying with fire, health & safety and building regulations, minimising the likelihood of injury, and reducing property damage.

Fire safety signs can be a variety of colours – usually red, green, yellow, or blue – and may contain images, words, or a mixture of the two. This mixed colour scheme helps them be visible and inform personnel of dangerous elements such as explosives or highly flammable materials.

Fire safety signs reduce panicking and incorrect use of equipment, allowing fire emergencies to be identified and dealt with as quickly and safely as possible. 


Construction Site Signs

Construction site sign

Construction site signs give important site-related instructions and warnings to staff and visitors, including health and safety and directional information. They are designed to be easy to spot and interpret. The range of designs and messages includes site entrances, locations of site offices and specific instructions and warnings for health and safety purposes.

Employers are legally obliged to maintain construction site health and safety by reducing or eliminating the risks posed on construction sites to employees, sub-contractors, visitors, and the general public.

This can be achieved by displaying construction site signs to control both the exposure to hazardous substances and the risks to physical health.

Construction site signs can be a variety of colours – usually red, green, yellow, or blue – and may contain images, words, or a mixture of the two. This mixed colour scheme helps reduce the likelihood of injuries and accidents and promotes a responsible and safe workplace.


Braille Signs

Braille lift sign

Braille Signs are a great way to make your workplace more accessible for the visually impaired. The signs feature a tactile raised texture, allowing them to be read by touch and contrasting colours, which are more visible to other users with sight disabilities.

Braille is a series of raised dots that allows blind and partially sighted people to read with their fingers. Each braille character is made up of six dots, and together they can be translated into letters of the alphabet, numbers, symbols, and common words.

They come in various simple contrasting colours such as white, green, blue, and red to assist the visually impaired in seeing important information.

We have a large variety of different braille signs, including those for fire safety, caution, directional signage and more.


Do I need safety signs in my workplace?

To determine if safety signs are necessary for your workplace, you firstly need to conduct a thorough risk assessment (made under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999). These assessments are designed to identify hazards, the associated risks, and the required measures to be taken. Based on the results, you can determine which types of safety signage must be put up.


We hope that you have found this guide handy and informative about all the different types of safety signs. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly team, who will be more than happy to assist you.

[1] https://www.firesafe.org.uk/health-and-safety-safety-signs-and-signals-regulations-1996/

[2] https://www.firesafe.org.uk/health-and-safety-safety-signs-and-signals-regulations-1996/


Richard O'Connor's Headshot

Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.

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