18th November, 2020

Understanding Construction Site Safety Signs

Construction site safety signs are displayed to deliver a clear health and safety message. Failing to understand the meaning of a health and safety sign on site might mean you lose your life - or your job. In this post, we look at the different types of construction safety signs.

Understanding Construction Site Safety Signs header image

Health and safety signs are displayed everywhere on construction sites, from the site hoarding and entrance points to various locations throughout the site. If you work on construction sites or have just walked past one, you are likely to have spotted some of these health and safety signs. They come in bright colours, like red, green, blue and yellow.

What are these signs there for, and what do they mean?

Construction site safety signs are not put up for decoration, and the colours haven't been chosen because they look pretty. Each sign has a meaning, and each colour represents a different message. Knowing what construction health and safety signs mean is important because they could be warning you about a danger, or telling you to do something. And if you don't understand the sign, and fail to follow the message, you could get hurt, or worse.

Construction site safety signs are there for a reason. They deliver important bits of information to you, letting you know about the hazards to watch out for or requirements that you must obey.

All safety signs have to conform to the The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations. Being familiar with the different types of signs means we will be able to spot:

So what do the different types of signs look like, and what do they mean? Let's take a look at some examples of each construction site safety sign.

Prohibition Signs

The first sign you might be familiar with is the prohibition sign, although you might just recognise it as a red danger sign. On the entrance to nearly every construction site, you will see this type of sign, usually with the text 'No unauthorised access'. Prohibition signs have a red circle with a crossbar on a white background. Any lettering is black.

prohibition safety sign

Examples: Stop, No Entry, No Smoking.

Meaning: DO NOT. YOU MUST NOT. STOP IT IF YOU ARE.

Mandatory Signs

Mandatory signs are the opposite of a prohibition sign. Instead of telling you not to do something, they tell you what you must do. You can also spot this type of sign through construction sites, telling you what you need to do, for example, 'Safety helmets must be worn' or even 'Keep out'. Mandatory signs have a solid blue circle with a white symbol and/or lettering.

mandatory safety sign

Examples: Wear hard hats, Safety footwear must be worn, Keep locked shut.

Meaning: YOU MUST DO. OBEY.

Warning Signs

Warning signs don't tell you what to do, but they are used to make you aware of a danger or a hazard. The first sign you might see on a construction site is a warning sign, with the text 'Warning Construction Site' or 'Danger Construction Site'. Warning signs have a solid yellow triangle (pointing up) with a black border. Any symbol or lettering is also black on yellow.

warning safety sign

Examples: Deep Excavations, High Voltage, Asbestos, Work Overhead

Meaning: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, BE CAREFUL, BE AWARE.

Safe Condition Signs

Safe conditions signs can be considered the opposite of a warning sign. Instead of warning you about danger, they are alerting to you to a safe place. You might see this type of sign on a construction site to let you know where the first aid kit is, where the fire exits are, or who to report to. Safe condition signs have a solid green square or oblong, with a white symbol or symbol and text.

safe condition safety sign

Examples: Fire Exit, First Aid

Meaning: FOLLOW THIS SIGN TO REACH SAFETY.

Fire Equipment Signs

Fire equipment signs let you know where fire equipment is. They are red in colour but square so that you can tell them apart from prohibition signs. You will find this type of sign on construction sites where the fire extinguishers are located, or at fire call points. Fire equipment signs have a solid red rectangle with white symbols and/or lettering.

fire equipment safety sign

Examples: Fire Alarm, Hydrant, and Extinguisher.

Meaning: HERE IS THE FIRE EQUIPMENT.


Now you should be able to understand construction site safety signs, and importantly, make sure that when you see one, you can follow the health and safety message and comply with the instruction.

Help you team understand construction site safety signs by downloading our free toolbox talk for safety signs and check out the infographic below as a visual reminder.

safety signs meaning infographic
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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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