The Regulations require employers to ensure that safety signs are provided (or are in place) and maintained in circumstances where there is a significant risk to health and safety that has not been removed or controlled by other methods. This is only appropriate where use of a sign can further reduce the risk. The other methods may include engineering controls or safe systems of work and may be required under other relevant legislation. Safety signs are not a substitute for those other methods of control. In determining when and where to use safety signs, employers must take into account the results of the risk assessment made under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations). This assessment should identify hazards, the risks associated with those hazards, and the control measures to be taken. When those control measures have been put in place there may be a significant ‘residual’ risk such that employees must be warned of any further measures necessary. Safety signs should be used if they will help to further reduce this residual risk. If the risk is not significant there may be no need to provide a sign. These Regulations make it clear that safety signs are not a substitute for other means of controlling risks to employees; safety signs are to warn of any remaining significant risk or to instruct employees of the measures they should take in relation to these risks. For example, in some workplaces there may be a risk of foot injury despite taking measures to control the risk and it may be appropriate to remind staff using the sign indicating that wearing foot protection is mandatory. Although these Regulations do not require safety signs to be used where there is no significant risk to health and safety, certain fire safety signs may have to be displayed under separate legal provisions. If you have any doubts check this with your enforcing authority for fire safety.

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