A beginners guide to buying a safety sign

We've recently launched on social media and this is why...
When it comes to Health and Safety signs the need for consistency, quality and viewer comprehension is at the forefront of Caledonia Signs' mind, however it's not the prime consideration for many other safety sign suppliers. Caledonia intend to use our social media accounts to post news and updates relating to legislation, best practice and all things safety signs. Our social media accounts will be used to raise awareness of safety signs and the importance of buying from reliable and reputable suppliers.

The use of old symbols, capital letters, incorrect colours or inferior materials is a common sight in our industry. That's why we've joined social media, on the quest to highlight what you should be looking out for.

1. When it comes to buying a safety sign, all signs are equal and you should just shop around for the cheapest version, correct?

If only that were true! Unfortunately it doesn’t take long when browsing for a sign to realise that the cheapest option is, more often than not, the cheapest for a reason. There are some truly shocking examples to be found on many websites trying to sell to you. I guess it is relatively easy to print off a sign and send it out to an unsuspecting customer; due to the relatively low value and the lack of technical knowledge (from both the manufacturer and the customer), the likelihood of a sign not fit for purpose being used by an unsuspecting customer is unfortunately high.

Caledonia Signs is a leading manufacturer of safety signs, our knowledge and expertise ensures that we manufacture technically correct signs using only the highest quality of materials which we supply via our network of approved distributors. We only supply to our trade partners, which helps us to ensure thousands of compliant safety signs are supplied across the entirety of the UK on a daily basis.

2. How do you know if you're getting a good sign or a dodgy sign? What should you be looking out for? And what should you be asking your potential supplier?

Let’s start with the basics – does your sign supplier know what Standard they should manufacture their signs to? The graphical symbols/pictograms that you see on your safety sign should comply with ISO 7010:2011 Graphical symbols -- Safety colours and safety signs. This Standard replaced the old BS 5499-5:2002 Graphical symbols and signs - Safety signs, including fire safety signs back in 2011. You would be amazed just how many websites still quote their signs as complying to the old Standard and even more worrying how many so-called safety sign manufacturers are still displaying the old symbols on their manufactured signs. If your supplier is unaware of ISO 7010 then you should seriously reconsider your choice of supplier.

You will see below a few examples of the ‘old’ versus the ‘new’ graphical symbols to help with your decision making process. Some of these changes are more obvious than others but all have been made to ensure a consistency in design across borders so that the same symbol will be displayed in the UK as is displayed across the rest of the EU. These symbols have also been tested to ensure maximum comprehension levels at all times to avoid any uncertainty of their meaning (though supplementary text is also recommended to further strengthen the message).

Another change that may have gone by unnoticed by some manufacturers is the withdrawal of the EC Directive (92/58/EEC) emergency escape route designs. If your supplier is still trying to sell you these signs we’d strongly advise you not to do so. Unlike the ISO 7010 alternative, these old EC Directive sign designs were found to cause some confusion amongst evacuees and have poor comprehension levels. We withdrew this range of signs back in 2011 as a result of this.

3. What else should I consider when choosing my supplier of safety signs?

Colour and print consistency. One thing that is often unknown or simply ignored by manufacturers of safety signs is that they must fall within certain colour parameters to comply with legislation. All of our inks are colour matched to a specific shade to ensure it is within these metrics and to ensure that the same colour ways are supplied each time you order. This is not as easy to identify when choosing your supplier but if you notice varying shades and/or print quality each time you receive an order then it may be time to consider switching supply.

Lead-times. Most customers expect a quick turnaround on their order, often requiring a sign in time for a safety inspection or site opening. We hold thousands of standard signs in stock and aim to despatch orders we receive from our partners before 3pm the same day for delivery the following working day. Unlike most manufactures we also boast a quick turnaround on ‘specials’ so if you need something with corporate branding or a bespoke design we can often manufacture these within 24 hours too. Just ask your supplier how quick you will receive your sign – if it’s longer than expected then again we’d suggest you give us a try.

Ease to find the sign you need. We supply our partners with technical support and marketing materials ranging from catalogues to websites and point of sale displays so hopefully you’ll find what you are looking for with ease from one of our suppliers. If your current supplier can’t offer these options then perhaps it's time you made a change?

You will find some useful additional guidance and information relating to safety signs in the Safety signs and signals. The Health and Safety Regulations 1996 which can be downloaded free here.

Surprisingly however, this publication still displays old/non-compliant graphical symbols which is a little confusing and contradicting for what it sets out to achieve. That aside, there is useful guidance for employers, duty holders and others who have responsibility for the control of workplaces, sites and premises.

Caledonia Signs are a member of the HSSA (Health & Safety Sign Association), the only trade association specifically for the safety sign and statutory notice industry. As such, we work closely with the other members of the association to help ensure the integrity of the industry and the products being placed into the marketplace. Additional guidance can be found in the HSSA Sign Guide, available to download for free here.

4. Introducing Caledonia Signs

Our trade-only policy remains at the forefront of our business philosophy so if you are a company that is looking to buy and re-sell safety signs then we'd love to hear from you, alternatively you can visit our site or watch the 1 minute video below to find out more about what we can offer. If you are looking to buy signs for your own use then we can you put in touch with a local supplier to provide you with a quote.

If you’ve any questions or looking for advice relating to safety signs we will be happy to try and answer those questions for you.