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Signs and posters are a useful tool to give people the information that they need about safety precautions, hazards and equipment in and around the premises.  Signs can be used to compliment other preventative and protective measures, with other signs being a requirement of legislation, such as exit signs.

There are a number of styles of safety sign that are used, each characterised by a specific shape and colour. The use of a certain type depends on the message that the sign carries. See the below table:


Safe condition sign

Green signs are called "safe condition" signs.
These signs can either tell people the location of  safety equipment, such as first aid equipment and fire exits, or tell people that it is safe to do something in case of an emergency. The example shown is a First Aid sign, which is a white cross on a green background.

Fire safety sign

Red signs are called "fire safety" signs.
They are used only for showing the location of fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment. The example shown is for a fire extinguisher which shows a white fire extinguisher logo next to white flames and both are on a red background.

Mandatory sign

Blue circles are called "mandatory" signs.
These signs give orders: you need to do whatever is written on the sign. The example shown is a Fire Door sign with white words "fire door keep shut" printed on a blue circle.

Prohibition sign

Red circles with a line through them are called "prohibition" signs.
You must not do whatever is shown on the sign.  The example is a No Smoking sign which shows a red circle with a diagonal line crossing out a black cigarette on a white background.
No smoking laws in the UK usually require certain text to be displayed on this sign, such as "It is against the law to smoke in these premises".

Warning sign

Yellow triangles are called "caution"  signs.
These should be used if something dangerous needs to be brought to people's attention.  The sign shown is a general warning symbol that is used with text to show a hazard.  This sign shows a yellow triangle with a black border on which an exclamation mark is drawn.
Use warning signs with caution - it usually means that you have not put enough precautions into place if you need to use a sign.

Other signs may be used to indicate toilets and so on. These can be any format you wish, but you must not be able to confuse them with safety signs. You do not need to use symbols on these signs but it is useful to include them.  All safety signs need to carry the right symbol to be compliant with the law.

Note that many signs do not need text because symbols are used  to give a multi-lingual sign. It is recommended that you include text to help make sure that you get over your message.  In some cases, tactile signs are useful to help those who are visually impaired and many signs are available in multiple languages, such as Welsh and English.

Signs for Fire Safety equipment

Apart from exit signs (see the Exit Signs page for more information), you need signs that show where key fire safety equipment is located, such as fire extinguishers These signs can also include information about the contents of the fire extinguisher and what fires it is safe to be used on. You fire extinguisher service company should be able to advise you and these signs are usually supplied with the extinguishers.

Some doors (known as 'fire doors') in your Place of Worship might need to be kept shut for fire safety reasons because they are designed to hold back fire and smoke. Use a blue mandatory sign to tell people either "fire door keep shut" when the door has a device that closes the door automatically or "fire door keep locked" if the door must be locked to secure the door shut. Old red triangle or diamond shaped signs are no longer compliant with the requirements of the regulations.

Signs for Health and Safety

Signs can be a useful addition to the safety precautions within a building, but are not usually sufficient alone to control risk unless the risk is very small.  Used with care, after all other options have been considered that could reduce the risk, signs can be used to reduce any remaining or residual risk by informing people of safety hazards and precautions. 

A sign is not required for every conceivable hazard so always exercise discretion over where signs are used and the size of the sign.  A useful fact about signs to remember: Of those that walk past a sign 80% will see it is there, 60% will read it, but only 40% will take any action (and probably fewer will take the desired action!).

Any sign provided for safety reasons needs to conform to the general styles of sign as shown above.  It would not usually be acceptable to use a hand-written or even computer-generated sign for anything other than a temporary measure.

Where coloured tape is used to mark off a hazard, it would be normal to use black/yellow stripes, but sometimes red/white is used.

Signs required in a typical Church

It would be normal to consider the following signs:

  • No smoking signs (as required by UK no-smoking laws), which need to include the text as outlined in the relevant English/Welsh/Scottish legislation.
  • Hot surface signs for heaters that get excessively hot, i.e. if someone could suffer a burn if they hold their hand on the heater for a long period of time and where guarding cannot be provided
  • Hot water signs near taps when the hot water temperature is not regulated and above about 50 degrees Celsius.
  • Prohibition signs to limit access to unauthorised personnel from boiler rooms and confined spaces
  • A first aid sign where the location of the first aid equipment is not clear or is behind a door
  • A "wet floor" or "cleaning in progress" free-standing warning sign for use when cleaning is in progress - such signs are typically used in hospitals, offices and shops

Signs used in car parks and drive ways should conform to the styles of sign used on the highway.  For more details, consult the Highway Code.

Material and fixing methods

By far the best option for Places of Worship is to use rigid plastic signs fixed with self-adhesive pads or screws.  It is becoming common practice to use an adhesive like a silicon sealant, however this is not recommended in historic buildings as it is difficult to remove and can cause damage to modern plastered walls as well as stone.

Self-adhesive backed vinyl signs are also available and can reduce the time taken to fix the signs in place but these signs can peel off over time. Metal and poly-carbonate signs are ideal for outside areas where vandalism might be a problem and can be fixed with security screws for additional protection.  Some signs are available in aluminium and brass finished to compliment door furniture where aesthetics are important.

In some historic buildings, there might be objection to installing signs on walls.  Alternative locations can include doors, hanging off pipes or similar features using chains.  Signs could be fitted onto stands or frames which can be easily constructed out of wood, as sometimes seen in historic buildings, and put out when required.

Some signs are available in glow-in-the-dark finishes, known as "photo-luminescent". The material glows for several hours after the light goes off. These are not a substitute for emergency lighting, but they can sometimes prove a useful tool.


To comply with the current Health and Safety regulations, you need to display the current "Health and Safety Law" poster that is published by the HSE. It is available in all good bookshops.  A new poster has recently been produced by the HSE which is more user-friendly compared to the previous poster.  Existing posters (of the old design) are still useable up to 2014 as long as the information boxes are completed correctly.  An alternative to the poster is to give the leaflet version to all employees and volunteers.

You might also need to display some posters that tell people information about safety policies and procedures. These might drawer somebody's attention to certain precautions or tell someone how to do something. This includes a fire action poster, which tells people what they need to do in a fire. We have produced an example fire action poster on this Website.

If you plan to produce your own posters, you might find the best results would be from black laser print as ink-jet print can fade over time.  Some colour can help attract people's attention to the sign but use the standard safety symbols shown above for best impact. Laminating the poster will also protect it from becoming damaged.

ISO 7010

The look of some common safety signs is being changed in line with a common standard that many countries will follow.  This standard is called ISO 7010.  However, although the symbols are changing slightly, it will still be clearly recognisable what the sign means - they signs will look substantially the same.

There will be no immediate need to change signs to meet the new standards where the existing ones are acceptable.

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