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Health and Safety Signs NZ – What Safety Signage is Required in New Zealand?

workplace safety

Per standard NZS/AS 1319:1994, safety signs are a legal requirement. You need to have the following three criteria met with your health and safety signs at all times and in any New Zealand business. All signage is designed to do the following:

1. To regulate and control safety-related behaviour
2. To warn of potential hazards where necessary, and
3. To provide emergency information, including fire protection

Knowing exactly which signage is needed in your business and exactly what these signs should look like can be a confusing task to handle on your own. This article will detail the different requirements of safety signage in New Zealand and help you understand exactly what you need in your place of work to be legally compliant.

Types of Safety Signs

Danger Signs – Hazards that can kill

Any hazard that could potentially be fatal requires an appropriate safety sign. The word ‘DANGER’ and the red oval inside a black box must be displayed to the exact dimensions and colour outlined in the AS/NZS 1319:1994.

Examples of danger signs: keep out, asbestos removal, flammable, high voltage

safety signs - danger signs example

Warning Signs – Hazards that can injure

Hazards that have the potential to cause non-life threatening physical harm require a warning sign. Warning signs should be yellow with a black triangle and include an image of the hazard.

Examples of warning signs: slippery surface, forklifts in use, risk of electric shock

Prohibition Signs – Things you must not do.

Use these signs when you want to tell employees/visitors what they aren’t allowed to do. A universally understood image with a red circle around and a red diagonal line through indicates what is generally not allowed. It should be displayed up front and large so there is no misunderstanding.

Examples of prohibition safety signs: do not drink, no entry, no smoking

prohibition sign - restricted entry - safety signs example

Mandatory Signs – Things you must do to stay safe.

Mandatory signs should be used to tell employees and visitors what they should do to stay safe and ensure a safe working environment. These can be used to instruct people to stay out of dangerous areas, advise on wearing PPE or other simple tasks that must be performed before entering an area. Mandatory safety signage includes a large blue circle with easy to understand images and clear instructions underneath.

Examples of mandatory signs: wear protective clothing, wash hands, PPE for covid safety

Emergency & Fire Signs – Things that will SAVE you.

Emergency and fire safety signs help guide employees to an area that can provide safety equipment or a safe way to exit. The white text on a green background is a universal indication of emergency signage. A red background on a sign indicates the location of a fire extinguisher or other fire equipment.

Examples of emergency and fire signs: exit, fire extinguisher, first aid

fire safety sign example

Guidance on common safety signage your business needs

Exit Safety Signs

Easy-to-read exit signs are the most important installations in your business. These signs will assist your employees and customers to find a way out of your building or facility in case of an emergency.

Signs need to be clear, visible, and easy to understand. In addition, signs need to be illuminated. This can be done in the case of internally illuminated signs or by having a light illuminating the exit sign externally.

Exit signs also could be photoluminescent and be able to be charged on a lighting system specially controlled for signs.

All exit signs, regarding how they light up and draw attention to themselves, should be visible even during low-light conditions.

Similar to exit signs, it is beneficial for you to have signs indicating exit routes located by applicable exits. These signs exist as a way to ensure your employees and customers can locate a safe way outside of your building in case of an emergency.

safety signs - exit signage

Hazardous Substances Signs

If your employees handle or work around chemicals in your business, hazardous substance signs are required. Your signs must be durable and not able to fade easily and be in English. These signs should always contain information about what materials are and how to react in case of an emergency situation.

Are substances flammable? What about potential health risks? This sort of information should be included on posted signage. Hazardous substance signs must be easy to understand and information must be able to be read from 10 meters away in low light or in rain.

Where do you place these signs?

They should be near hazardous substances but should be visible to the extent that no one needs to be near the hazardous substances to be warned of their presence. People need to be warned before it’s potentially too late. Signs must be at all entrances, whether those be vehicle entrances or walk-in entrances, to let people know hazardous materials are stored on site.

Signs should also be updated whenever there is a change to the materials you are storing.

hazardous substance safety sign example

Safety Signs – What Not To Do

Now that you know two major types of signs your workplace may need, it’s important to know what not to do with your legally required signage.

First, ensure that regardless of opening doors or gates, your signs are always visible. If you were to put a sign on a wall that gets covered when a door is open, for example, you will actually not be in compliance even though your sign meets all other legal criteria.

Never allow your signs to fall into a state of disrepair. Signs should be clear and easy to read at all times and should always have accurate information displayed. All of your posted safety signage should be cleaned frequently as well to ensure you and your employees can read them should they ever be needed.

If there’s ever a change to anything, signs need to be updated. Say, for example, a door no longer leads to an exit due to new construction. That exit sign should be removed in order to prevent your employees or customers from attempting to use that door as an exit in the case of an emergency. The last thing you want is to be held liable for someone’s injury due to a misplaced sign.

What If I’m Stuck?

Although the new health and safety act has been in existence for a few years, many companies still have gaps in health and safety that they may be unaware of.

HasTrak can assist: We are experienced health and safety consultants and advisors who specialize in running detailed audits and risk assessments, building COVID-19 health and safety management systems and manuals, and on-and-off-site workplace safety training and consultancy tailored to your workplace and team.

Too many businesses risk going bankrupt over fines following simple workplace accidents; fines that can easily be avoided by knowing what you’re working with, and having your paperwork up to date. We’ll help you do exactly that! Contact us today to receive a personalized quote!

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Get in touch to talk about health and safety management, consultancy or training for New Zealand business.

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