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How do emergency services, visitors and your workers know what hazardous substances you have on site and the protection or precautionary measures they should take? Signs provide clear, concise information and are often the first warnings people will have about your hazardous substances.
Signs are placed at key points on your site, such as entranceways and on buildings, or in outdoor areas, where hazardous substances are used or stored. They should be clearly visible and let people know that hazardous substances are present, the general type of hazard and what to do in an emergency. This allows people to approach the site with appropriate care.
There are special sign requirements for some substances, for example fumigants and vertebrate toxic agents (VTAs).
Signs are required when you have hazardous substances exceeding specified quantities. You can use the hazardous substances calculator(external link) to work out whether you are required to have signs in place.
Even if you aren’t required to have signs, it is best practice always to have them as they warn other people at the workplace, and emergency services, that hazardous substances are present.
There are some requirements for signs generally. For example, they must be made out of a durable material that won’t easily fade. They must be in plain English, readily understandable, and the information (correct words and pictograms) must be clearly visible and legible from not less than 10 metres away under varying conditions (for example, rain or poor light).
There are some specific requirements such as a sign for transit depots; the word EXPLOSIVES required for Class 1 substances; and the word HAZCHEM required for class 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or 8 substances.
Signs need to be placed close to where the hazardous substances are stored, but not too close, because people need to know that the danger is there before it’s too late.
If hazardous substances are located in a building at a workplace, signs must be at every vehicle and pedestrian entrance to the building and the property.
If hazardous substances are in a room inside the building, signs should be at each entrance to that room.
If hazardous substances are outdoors, a sign must be next to that area.
Don’t put signs:
- where they may be hidden
- beside doors or gates that cover the sign when they’re open
- above doors, or anywhere smoke may conceal the sign.
Signs must be maintained and up-to-date. Signs that can’t be read or don’t accurately reflect the hazardous substances on site will not help to keep people safe.
This means you must change your signs (as soon as practicable) if there is a change in the type, class, or quantity of hazardous substances present at the workplace that requires different information to be displayed.
You must ensure that your signs are clean, in good repair and not covered or obscured.
Safety equipment suppliers can provide you with the correct signs.
Check the Yellow Pages or the internet for suppliers in your area.