Understanding Signs

Symbols and Colours

Health and Safety signs can be broken down into the following categories, as specified by British and European Standards. General Signs (signs which are used for information purposes) are not required to meet any specific criteria. Note that these rules are not applicable to road signs and Taktyle Braille signs.

Mandatory Signs, Safe Condition signs, Prohibition Signs, Fire Equipment Signs, Hazard Signs, General Signs

Sign Basics

A sign should communicate to the reader its message as clearly and in as short a time as possible, whilst ensuring the information given is complete and accurate. Do not over complicate a sign by trying to say too much and aim to keep the message as succint as possible. If at first glance you cannot understand the message the sign is trying to convey then the sign has failed its purpose.

Please note that there are seprate rules in place for road signs and Taktyle and braille signs.

Symbol Guide

  • The symbol
  • Safety Signs have a picture or diagram of some sort. In most cases this will relate directly to the message that needs to be conveyed. This helps those who perhaps cannot read, suffer from dyslexia or speak a different language.

    Occasionally the message is impossible to illustrate with a simple picture, and in these cases a general symbol (be it warning or prohibition etc) will be used.

  • White borders
  • Today's signs are all designed with white borders, ensuring that there is always a contrast between the sign and the background it is placed upon.

  • Upper and Lower Case Text
  • Studies have shown signs are more legible in both upper and lower case from a distance when compared to using only capital letters.


BS EN ISO 7010:2012

Continued growth in the number of people living and working in countries where the native language is not their own has led to the requirement for a common method of communicating safety information. A lack of standardisation can lead to confusion and result in the risk of accidents.

In an effort to attain consistency of design of safety signs throughout Europe BS EN ISO 7010:2012 was adopted in the UK in 2012. By adopting this standard the goal is that a fire exit sign in the UK would be the same design as in Germany, France or any other EU member.

It is an ongoing process and not all images will have changed but you can be assured that all signs we provide have been updated to the new standard where available. If a symbol has not yet been updated then the previous BS5499 standard will be used until such a time as a replacement ISO symbol becomes available.

Health and Safety guidance recommends that the two different types of signage, BS 5499 and EN 7010 should not be mixed in the workplace. When looking to purchase new signage, ensure they meet with the new EN 7010

For more advice on safety signs and how to be compliant, contact one of our advisors at your local branch.

Viewing Distance

The main thing to consider when selecting the right sized sign is the viewing distance. It is essential that the sign can be viewed from the required distance and the environment and workforce are also considered. These are suggested maximum viewing distances, for current formulae refer to BS5499-4:2000.

This is intended as a guide only. If you require further advice please contact us.

Sign Size Guide

Materials Guide

Our most commonly purchased products. For full specifications of any material below please contact us
SAV Self adhesive vinyl PHO1.3mm Rigid Photoluminescent Board (self adhesive)
RPVCRigid 1mm PVC board (non-adhesive) STN Polyester unprinted stencil sheet
PVC Self adhesive semi-rigid PVC TAK Reverse printed and moulded Taktyle sheet
BAN Flexible Banner PVC POL Polished Gold Effect Laminate (Self Adhesive)
BRG Brushed Gold Effect Laminate (Self Adhesive) PSS 1.2mm Polished Stainless Steel
BRS Brushed Silver Effect Laminate (Self Adhesive) PYC 2mm Vandal Resistant Polycarbonate
CHR Polished Chrome Effect (Self Adhesive) QSN Q-Sign, Temporary Moulded Plastic Sign
CLG Window Cling Vinyl SAA Satin Anodised Aluminium
CRU Classic Roll-up Sign SAP Paper (Self Adhesive)
CRX Lightweight Corrugated Plastic SSE Stainless Steel Effect Laminate
DIB Dibond Aluminium Composite SSS Satin Stainless Steel
FLR(Ph) Anti-slip Laminated Floor Sign (Photolum) TAKPh Taktyle Photoluminescent
FMX 3mm Foamex Board ('Foamed' PVC) TAKVI Taktyle Vinyl
LAM Laminated Paper TRU Triflex Roll-up Sign
PAP Paper ZFM Zintec (in a mild steel frame)
PB 1.5mm Polished Brass ZIN Zintec (without frame)
request a signs catalogue

Find us on:

Arco website help desk - Need help? email: web.help@arco.co.uk © Arco Limited, Registered in England, No 133804, PO Box 21 Waverley Street, Hull HU1 2SJ.
VAT No: 166911546