If you’re having a property built or renovated in Australia and you’re the principal contractor (builder), owner-builder, or Principal Certifying Authority (PCA), it’s important to put up safety signs on the construction site to protect workers, visitors and passers-by.
Managing risks in construction work with site signage
Before you start any construction work, make sure to identify where potential hazards are on the site and then assess the risks to ensure that the right sign is erected at the right spot. Site signage helps to control and minimise the risks of hazards, and is therefore an effective control measure. They minimise exposure to hazards and hazardous conditions, such as harmful substances and loud noise. Signs prohibiting entrance to a work area with dangerous equipment, for example, can minimise the risk of someone injuring themselves, or worse getting into a fatal accident. You can prevent unauthorised persons from entering the worksite or a particular work area by erecting a ‘Keep Out’ sign. You can also put up signs for workers indicating what PPE (personal protective equipment) they must wear before entering an area or working onsite, e.g. helmets, goggles, reflective clothing, and/or ear plugs/muffs. These signs not only help to protect the health and safety of those involved in the construction work, but also that of the public. Any changes made to the construction site or work procedures should be taken into account when reviewing the effectiveness of site signage.
The following looks at the different types of construction signs that you can use onsite:
a) Mandatory signs: These have a white picture inside a blue circle with instructions that must be followed. For example:
- Head protection must be worn in this area.
- Eye protection must be worn in this area.
- Hearing and eye protection must be worn in this area.
- Hearing protection must be worn.
- Respiratory protection must be worn in this area.
- Safety footwear must be worn.
b) Warning signs: These have a yellow background, warning people of hazards or hazardous conditions that are not life-threatening, e.g. Caution: Nailing tool in use.
c) Emergency signs: These have white writing or pictures inside a green square, indicating where the emergency facilities are and how to get there, i.e. exits and safety equipment. For first-aid facilities, a white cross inside a green square is used.
d) 4-in-1 safety sign: This includes four of the most common signs used on a construction site, as well as a list of site rules, which are:
- Mandatory sign –Hearing & eye protection must be worn on this site when required and safety footwear must be worn
- Warning sign –Caution: Nailing tool in use
- Danger sign –Danger: Construction site – Do not enter – Authorised persons only
- Site rules –No children allowed onsite, all persons working onsite must have a General Safety Induction Card, and electrical leads and power tools must be tested and tagged.
This sign is more convenient for builders to use as part of their safety sign obligations.
e) Personalised safety signs: The principal contractor or owner-builder and the PCA (i.e. the local council or an accredited certifier) should have a sign, or signs, put up onsite with their name and contact number. The builder will need to include a contact number for during and after work hours. The sign/s should also state that unauthorised entry to the site is prohibited. The builder and PCA can each have a sign of their own, or use one sign combining their details. The sign/s should help identify you as the builder or PCA, and also have details of your business. You can also put up a sign indicating where your site office is, which should have ‘Site Office’ in red letters on a white background.
These have ‘Danger’ written in white letters inside a red oval on a black background, which warns people of hazards or hazardous conditions that are life-threatening. For example:
- Danger: Do not proceed beyond this point
- Danger: All visitors report to site office
- Danger: Asbestos cancer and lung disease hazard – Authorised personnel only
- Danger: Asbestos removal work in progress – Authorised personnel only
- Danger: Construction site – Do not enter – Authorised persons only
- Danger: Deep excavation
- Danger: Demolition in progress
- Danger: Excavation work in progress
- Danger: Formwork stripping in progress
- Danger: Keep clear – Explosive powered tool in use
- Danger: Keep clear – Overhead work in progress
- Danger: Keep out – No access
- Danger: Scaffolding incomplete
- Danger: Swimming pool under construction – Keep children out
All the signs mentioned above are available in a standard size of 600mm x 450mm, while the 4-in-1 safety sign comes in a standard size of 900mm x 600mm. If you fail to put up safety signs on the construction site, penalties may apply. So before you begin any building work, don’t forget to put up the signs, as these will ensure that the site meets health and safety standards. Putting up signs that warn people of hazardous activities onsite can also ensure that the building process goes smoothly and within budget.