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Signs Buying Guide

April 1st, 2019



Why do you need signs?

Legislation around signage

How to choose the correct signs

Questions to ask before shopping for signs

Choosing signs

Types of signs

General best practices when buying signs

Further information




Signs are all around us, every day. They are used to instruct us and warn us, usually to prevent us from danger or harm. As an employer, it is your duty to look after your employees and visitors to your sites and part of that responsibility is ensuring you comply with relevant legislation.

While much health and safety legislation is based around common sense guidelines, there are some requirements you need to follow with regards to signage. Whether it’s fire safety, first aid, hazardous materials or areas of high risk, there will be legislative guidelines that you have to follow that require you to provide adequate, legible and appropriate signage.

There’s a vast choice out there and the signs you choose will be mainly governed by the areas or tasks in your workplace. However, there’s more to it than that; you can purchase multiple varieties of the same sign, for instance, and there is a range of materials to choose from, each with their own advantages.

Luckily, this buying guide can help you to narrow down your choices and make the perfect decision when it comes to buying signs. First, we’ll take a broad look at why we need signs in the first place. Then we’ll go deeper into the legislation that might affect you when it comes to choosing signs.

This is a complex topic and one that we will only introduce you too; you’re advised to check legislation in full to make sure you are compliant, but our overview will certainly help.

Then we’ll look at how you can choose the correct signs and how you should use them. With so much choice in front of you, just looking at signs for the first time can be bewildering if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. That’s why we provide a helpful list of questions you should ask yourself before buying.

Work your way through these questions and you’ll find that the answers will have already narrowed down your choices significantly, making it easier when we come to the bulk of the buying guide, which is a breakdown of the vast range of types of signs available.

We’ll cover this variety in full, so that you know what each kind of sign is for and whether or not it suits your needs. With all of this information to hand, you’ll be ready to start searching for signs from suppliers.

Before you do, read through our best practice guide. This will help you to choose the right supplier, ensure you get the best deal on your signs, and protect yourself if you’re shopping online.

The world of signage is broad and complex, but by working through this buying guide it will hopefully become a lot clearer and you’ll be able to find the appropriate signage for your needs.



Why do you need signs?

Safety and information signs are seen everywhere. From motorways to hospitals, offices to construction sites, everywhere there are bold, easy-to-understand symbols, telling us what to do, and what not to.

They are designed to communicate straightforward, unambiguous instructions, regardless of our spoken language or reading level, often with colour-coding that taps into a primal understanding of colour.

Many signs are internationally-agreed, meaning that wherever we go in the world, we can broadly understand them.

Most signs of this type are designed to highlight hazards or dangers, or to help us in the case of such. From fire safety signs to hazardous materials, first aid and emergency exits, these signs are designed to be understood quickly, in a crisis.

No matter your line of work, you’ll have some need for these signs. Depending on the type of work you do, you may need more, or specific sets of signs. Even in an office, you’ll need signage showing first aid kits and fire exits.

In industrials work or construction sites, for example, you’ll need more signs. These might say no smoking, or warn of chemical hazards, or the need for hard hats.

Regardless, it’s highly likely that there will be some signage you’ll be required to display by law. And even when there are areas not specifically covered by legislation, there will be times when you want to display signage for the comfort or safety of your workforce.

Ultimately, that’s what signage is all about. Whether you’re signalling to workers, clients or customers, signs are designed to protect us. As an employer, it’s crucial that you fulfil your responsibilities to look after people.

It’s up to you to have a clear understanding of what kinds of signs you need to display, where to do so, how to attach them and how to maintain them, so that they remain in place, legible and not in a state of disrepair.

Work-related injuries and deaths happen every day in the UK and that’s with signage in place to notify people of hazards. If signs aren’t used, or are used inappropriately, the chances of accident and death rises.

Since the early days of the industrial revolution, workers campaigned for better signs to signal dangers in the workplace, and over the years, those signs were largely standardised and made law. The majority of these signs can be split into one of three classifications: danger, caution and safety instruction.

Prohibition signs indicate situations that are hazardous enough to result in death or serious injury if the warnings are not followed. They are usually predominantly red and white.

Warning signs indicate situations that could result in minor or moderate injuries if the warnings are not heeded. They are usually yellow and black.

Mandatory signs are those that indicate safety-related instructions or procedures. They are usually blue and white.

There are also green and white signs that indicate emergency doors, exits, escape routes, equipment and first aid. They do not in themselves signify danger.


Legislation around signage

In the UK, health and safety is governed by the Health and Safety Executive. The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 act specifically governs the responsibility of employers for the use of signs and signals in the workplace.

They implement a number of EU directives on the provision of safety signs at work, requiring employers to provide safety signs where there are no other appropriate means to prevent and remove certain risks, and where using the sign can reduce those risks.

Part of the purpose of the directive is to standardise signs across EY member states, so that workers moving from one site to another will not come across different kinds of signs.

The use of signs goes hand in hand with risk assessments; without assessing the risks of any given area or task, you won’t know which signs to use. Proper risk assessment involves assessing hazards, removing or reducing them where possible, and using signs to denote these hazards where the former is not possible.

It is clear in the guidelines provided that signs should never be used as a substitute for controlling risks. Instead, once a risk has been fully assessed and it has been decided that some substantial risk remains even after controlling it, signs should be used to point these out to workers.

Not only that, signs should always be used in conjunction with training, rather than as a replacement for it. It should never be taken for granted that workers will understand what each sign signifies; instead, training should be given on the specific area or task, with clear guidance as to what each sign means.

Signs are usually visual, but can include auditory signs as well.

It is also the responsibility of the employer to make sure that provision is made for any employees who are hearing or sight impaired, such as increasing the volume of auditory signs or adding braille to signs.

All signage must be properly maintained. This means that they must be kept in such a way that their function is not impaired, for example by dirt, erosion or corrosion making the sign illegible. Routine cleaning is a priority, and any acoustic, auditory or digital signs must be regularly tested to make sure they are in good working order.

Safety signs must maintain their features under power failure, for example emergency lighting should clearly light up signage, unless the hazard itself is eliminated by the power failure.

Signboards should be large and clear so that they can be easily understood. They should be well-lit, durable, securely fastened in place and regularly cleaned for constant visibility. Take care not to place too many signboards in close proximity to one another. Too many signs in the one place could cause confusion or prevent them being clearly understood.

Pictograms (small images) can be used within signboards, but they must not differ too much from the intention of the sign. There is guidance on this within the legislation, and some small differences are acceptable. However, to be sure that they comply, pictograms within BS EN ISO 7010 should be used.

If on assessment of a particular hazards you find that the regulations do not specify a suitable sign or symbol, you are allowed to design your own, as long as you use the guidelines. However, this is not acceptable if the warning sign is to be used in a room where material or containers used for work with chemical substances or mixtures is stored.

Here are some of the intrinsic features of the various signs:

Prohibitory signs

These should be a) round and b) a black pictogram on a white background, with red edging and a red diagonal line. The red part should take up at least 35% of the area. E.g.:


Warning signs

These should be a) triangular and b) have a black pictogram on a yellow background with black edging. The yellow part should take up at least 50% of the area. E.g.: prohibitory signs

Mandatory signs

These should be a) round and b) have a white pictogram on a blue background. The blue part should take up to at least 50% of the area. E.g.:

mandatory signs

Emergency escape or first-aid signs

These should be a) rectangular or square and b) a white pictogram on a green background. The green part should take up to at least 50% of the area. E.g.:

escape or emergency signs

There are other types of signs too. Firefighting signs are rectangular or square in shape with a white pictogram on a red background, with 50% red, and GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) hazard signs, which have no intrinsic features but are often a white diamond with a red border and a black pictogram.

Further to the very general guidance provided here, there is comprehensive information available online and through the HSE website that outlines your responsibilities and provides guidance on the use of signs for marking areas, rooms and enclosures, as well as those required for dangerous substances, traffic routes and more.

You can also find guidance on the use of illuminated signs and acoustic signals. There is also a specific series of guidelines around fire safety signs, which includes the use of signs denoting firefighting equipment such as fire hoses, extinguishers and sprinkler systems.

Any guidance provided here is only intended to be a useful jumping off point for you as you decide what kind of signage you need. It is not comprehensive, nor will following it mean that you necessarily meet your legislative requirements as an employer.

It’s your responsibility to keep yourself and your workers safe, so we’d advise reading through the HSE guidance fully and talking to an HSE representative if you need more information. You can find the appropriate guidance here, although always check to make sure the edition you are reading is fully up to date.


7 reasons why health and safety is so important

When it comes to health and safety in the workplace, signs are usually only the most visible factor in complex series of risk assessments and decisions, all designed to keep you and your workforce safe and healthy.

Each year, many people are killed at work. Many others are injured or suffer ill health. Most commonly, people are injured through slips, trips and falls from a height, and other conditions can be caused or worsened by work, including stress, asthma and musculoskeletal disorders.

However, implementing a proper health and safety programme isn’t always easy. It covers every aspect of the work you do and if you’ve been falling short in your responsibilities, you might need a complete overhaul.

That could include risk assessments of every area of work, as well as comprehensive rewrites to your policies and procedures. There’s no doubt about it; it will take time and money. You’ll have to invest capital on equipment, signage and countless other items if what you have is outdated or in disrepair.

It will involve other departments, most significantly Human Resource and Facilities. In some respects, if you’ve fallen behind on health and safety, you’re going to need a complete overhaul to the company culture.

The buck stops with you, though. As manager or director, if your staff die or become injured in the line of work, you’re the one who will be held accountable. But to implement a brand new approach to health and safety will mean a lot of work.

Among the many duties that fall under your responsibility as an employer include:

  • Making sure that the buildings and interiors are in good repair
  • Maintaining the workplace and equipment
  • Sorting out any dangerous defects
  • Taken precautions to prevent people coming to harm from hazards
  • Ensuring everyone has enough space for safe movement and access
  • Clearing away obstructions on the floors and in corridors
  • Providing good drainage in wet processes
  • And many others.

With all this, you might be wondering if it’s worth the effort. If you need to be convinced of the benefits of good health & safety, here are our top reasons to make sure you look after the workplace.

1. Safer environments are more productive

A thorough approach to health and safety shows your workforce that you are committed to their well-being. This creates a positive working environment where you’ll find that staff are more loyal and willing to work harder, increasing productivity. Conversely, if your workplace is unsafe, it shows a complete disregard for your employees; you can expect productivity to drop significantly in such conditions.

2. Safer workplaces have less absenteeism

Work-related accidents and injuries contribute significantly to sickness-absence levels, with makes running a successful business difficult. However, carefully manages safety programmes can reduce absence levels significantly.

3. Higher standards all round

A proper programme for health and safety tends to lead to higher all-round standards of safety, cleanliness and general housekeeping. It starts from the top down; if you’re serious about health and safety, your staff will follow your lead.

4. Health and safety can have a positive effect on mood

Employee wellness isn’t just a fad, nor is it just about ensuring workers don’t slip, trip or fall. In fact, stress is the number one cause of sickness-absence in the UK, and the numbers are growing. Contribute to a calmer, happier, healthier workforce by implementing health and safety programmes that go beyond legislative standards to ensuring that you stamp out stress. Happier employees are more productive, work more efficiently and are less likely to leave in search of a better workplace culture.

5. It will save you money

The more accidents and injuries there are in your workplace, the higher your insurance premiums will be, which is just throwing away your profits. However, if you have a safety record you can be proud of, you’ll also lower your insurance premiums.

6. Win and retain clients

Increasingly, clients are looking at more than your balance sheet and customer list before doing business with you; they want to know they’re working with a business that cares about its staff as well as its bottom line. A host of accidents in the last year or two will look bad; prospective clients will go elsewhere and your current clients might just do the same too.

7. Reduce business costs

Accidents cause disruption; disruption holds up your business. Holding up your business costs money. Become more efficient and more profitable by taking the time to implement a serious overhaul of your health and safety culture; you’ll make more money in the long run.

Above all else, you have to think of the human cost. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and statistics, but think about the impact one accident could have. It won’t just affect the employee, it will have repercussions for their family too.

They might have to take time off work and if your policy doesn’t pay out full wages during sick leave, they’ll have to struggle.

There’s also the ripple effect; colleagues close to the employee will be affected. They might think twice about carrying out certain activities, or question how you responded to the incident.

On top of that, you need to think about your brand’s image. If you’re seen to be uncaring when it comes to health and safety, that will filter through to your clients and customers over time, with the impact being felt in your bottom line.

Health and safety affects all of us, so it’s important you get it right. Thankfully, there are countless resources available online to help you. Get outside help if you need it; talk to the Health and Safety Executive about the best ways to prepare your business for a shift in health and safety policy and ask them to help you understand your legislative responsibilities.

Form project teams from across the workforce, involving people from a variety of departments. Make use of the existing skills that your employees have. Involving the staff team in health and safety developments will have a significant and lasting impact on the culture at work.

You’ll show that you trust them, rely on them and care about their welfare, and you’ll see that loyalty repaid. Start now, implement common sense measures to begin with and build from there.

Once you have a new health and safety programme in place, stay on top of it. It’s also too easy to let things slide, but a series of considered procedures and processes will help you and your workforce to ensure that you are able to follow through on the changes you’ve made.

Make it part of everyday life in the company and allow people to take ownership of it; nominate people (or ask for volunteers) to be competent persons, responsible for the delegation of certain tasks, such as managing weekly risk assessments or ordering equipment.

Within a short space of time you’ll have a completely new approach to your health and safety and it’s highly likely you’ll see those changes ripple through your company culture, resulting in a happier, healthier and more positive workforce that will see you and your business into a future full of expansion and development.

Your clients and customers will see the difference too, and they’ll talk about. So why wait? Get started on your new health and safety programme right now.


How to choose the correct signs

First and foremost, when you’re choosing signs is to make sure that you’re fully up to date with legislation (see previous section). There have been times in the past when legislation around signage has changed; in fact, each new legislative update usually brings in one or two (minor) changes, but sometimes they can be more significant.

It’s important to check that a) you know what the current standards are and b) that your chosen supplier can provide you with signs that are up to the latest standards.

As an example, warning signs used to be text-heavy and often there were confusing colour combinations used. Nowadays, signs are designed to be understood regardless of the language you speak, and have standardised colours.

Modern signs also usually describe the hazard and often the consequences too.

Assuming that you’re up to date with legislation and you’ve chosen a supplier whose signs comply with these (Equip4Work all comply with relevant standards and regulations; we provide full specs for each product that will tell you which ones apply), there are some other factors you need to consider when you’re choosing signage.

The first of these is the material for your signs. For general indoor use, vinyl is light and hardwearing, requiring minimal maintenance, and will last you for years. However, you don’t want to use lightweight vinyl if you’re planning to put the sign outside where it will have to ensure the elements.

Facing rain, wind, snow and other weathers will soon mean that the sign becomes worn or illegible, unless you use a hardwearing sign, such as one made from aluminium. While legislative standards and the message of the sign are the most important factors to consider, the material you choose should match the environment the sign will be used in.

It’s also important to keep your message clear when you’re choosing signs. Legislative compliance is the priority here, but so is ensuring that your signs can be easily read and understood. Avoid placing too many signs near each other as it may confuse workers as to which hazard you are identifying.

Use pictogram signs where possible; these can usually be understood regardless of the native language of your staff or their reading level and are a universal way of explaining hazards to employees and visitors. They work across cultural backgrounds, which is particularly useful if you have a diverse workforce or if you regularly welcome visitors from overseas.

Your sign should also be clearly visible to all. Make sure nothing is blocking the sign and that it can be seen from a reasonable distance, and from as wide an angle as possible. Be wary of placing signs in areas with a lot of moveable furniture or features such as screens or barriers.

Ensure that the area in which your signs are places are well-lit. Emergency lighting should be prioritised in these areas should you experience power failure or, if that is not appropriate, consider phosphorescent lighting or signs in the same area.

Choose signs that are easy to maintain. The nature of the them (that they are usually fairly small and are seen every day) means they can be easily missed by cleaning staff. Get sign maintenance down on their schedule as a priority and choose signs that can be easily wiped clean with a minimum of fuss.

Vinyl signs are hardwearing, inexpensive and super-easy to maintain, making them an ideal choice for most workplaces.

Questions to ask before shopping for signs

Some of the questions that may help you to understand your needs include:

  • What is the message you need to display?
    • Work out whether you need a prohibitory, hazards, mandatory or emergency size based on what you want the sign for. This will significantly help you to narrow down your options and ensure you meet legislative compliance.
  • Where is the sign going to be?
    • Will it be indoors or an exterior location? Will the sign be well-lit or will you need extra illumination or phosphorescence, for example?
  • How will the sign be mounted?
    • Do you need extra fixtures, or will you attach it directly to the wall? Consider whether you’ll need self-adhesive vinyl, or if you need to purchase another kind of fixture.
  • What is the average viewing distance?
    • Here’s a quick ready reckoner for sizes/distances:
      • 10”x7” can be readily seen at 15ft
      • 14”x10” can be readily seen at 25ft
      • 20”x14” can be readily seen at 40ft
    • Consider whether there will be barriers to viewing, such as lighting, trees, smoke or furniture.
  • What kind of material will you need?
    • Based on the answers to the previous questions, you can start to narrow down your material options. Most signs come in self-adhesive vinyl, rigid plastic or phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) vinyl.

Thinking about these questions before you begin will give you a firm understanding of what precisely you are looking for, and will avoid you becoming overwhelmed by the choices in the marketplace.


Choosing signs

Types of signs

Smoking Signs

A wide variety of non-smoking or smoking prohibited signs are available. Many of these are standard with text and a pictographic, while others warn of smoke detectors and some even take a slightly more humorous approach.

Fire Exit Signs

Fire exit signs that comply with a variety of standards, including British Standards, EU Directives and Hospital Technical Memorandum 65, are available, as well as braille signs that comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. You can also purchase plastic or aluminium suspension sign frames and illuminated emergency lighting.

Traffic & Site Management

Traffic management signs include maximum MPH signs, as well as disabled parking only, diversion signs and a wide variety of other purposes are available. You can also purchase safety personal protective clothing for traffic management, as well as cable protection and parking posts.

Safe Condition signs

These signs are green and white and have a variety of uses including emergency showers, in case of fire break glass and fire assembly points.

Tapes, Labels and Floor Marking

From police tape to underground gas working tape and Hazchem and transport labels, there’s something for every requirement here. Tapes are mostly used for physically marking or blocking off a hazard or area.

Prestige Signs

Manufactured in satin anodised silver or brushed gold effect, these signs are designed for a classic, executive look. Toilet signs, fire alarm call points and a variety of other signs are available and provide a touch of class while still being legible for safety purposes.

Assembly Point Signs

These are used in the case of fires to highlight muster points where workforces should gather when the fire alarm goes off. Clearly marked, while customer number and message signs available, these can be tied into your fire training and drills and used in an emergency.

Hazard Signs

The yellow and black signs that are the standard for hazards, available in a massive range of styles for a variety of hazards.

Fire Door Signs

These come in the blue and white mandatory signage and are available in vinyl, brass or aluminium, self adhesive labels and braille.

Fire Action Notices

Available in standard and photoluminescent versions, these action notices describe what to do in the event of a fire. There are multiple styles available with varying degrees of information and are even available as multi-lingual signs.

Braille Signs

Braille signs are compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act which states that equal access must be made to all people, regardless of ability, in public buildings. They are also suitable for workplaces who have staff members with visual impairment, assuring that they can make full use of the office or work floor.

Mandatory Signs

Mandatory blue and white signs instructing on personal protective equipment to be worn, or other safety instructions such as keep clear signs for gangways or fire escapes.


Hygiene signs and information posters are suitable for workplaces, instructing on food separation, hand washing and other important hygiene standards.

Desktop Signs

Made from rigid plastic formed into an ‘A’ shape, these sit on desktops advising on reception areas, no smoking, ring bell for attention and others.

Anti-Slip Floor Tape

If you need to mark out floor areas but want extra safety, anti-slip adhesive tape is perfect for reducing slips, trips and falls. Its textured surface prevents slips caused due to spillages or wearing the wrong kind of footwear.

Scaffold Signs

Specifically designed for used on scaffolding, these signs are printed on 3mm foam board which has been heat bent in such a way that they neatly hook over scaffold and railings. You can choose from a variety of sizes and designs warning of different hazards.

Fire Signs

Fire alarm call points, fire extinguisher signs and projecting fire signs are all available in a variety of styles and materials, including Foamex, double hanging signs and fire labels on a self-adhesive roll.

Photoluminescent & Marine Signs

Photoluminescent signs glow in the dark and are excellent for using in case of a power failure. They include fire exit signs and even “footprint” stickers to be used to mark routes to the exit. You can also purchase HMSO and Marine and first aid posters.

General Information Signs

These straightforward black and white signs cover everything from toilets to libraries and receptions areas, as well as instructions like appointment only. There’s a wide variety to choose from here.

Floor Signs

Floor signs are large, self-adhesive stickers that are highly durable and are designed for sticking onto the floor. Available in all kinds of prohibitory, hazard and mandatory signage with a variety of texts. Their polycarbonate protective film means they will withstand heavy footfall and traffic.

Clearview Prestige Signs

Clearview signs are made from 6mm clear cast acrylic for a contemporary look. They have frosted vinyl graphics and each sign is pre-frilled with two chrome fixings included. These are ideally-situated on a dark background for maximum legibility.

Glass Awareness Signs

We’ve all seen it happen; someone isn’t paying full attention to where they’re going and they walk into a window, thinking it was an open doorway. Prevent this from happening with vinyl sheets of stickers in self-adhesive frosted vinyl and a variety of designs, including diagonals, exclamation marks and patterns.


Prohibition signs are the red and white danger signs we all recognise. These are available in a wide range of types to suit all kinds of workplaces. As well as vinyl signs, you can also purchase tie tags; these are printed on flexible plastic and are supplied with fixing tags included. They are ideal for placing signs on posts or piping.

Site Safety Boards

Site safety boards contain multiple signs on each board, including a mix of prohibitory, hazard and mandatory instructions. You can also purchase site safety signs that can be completed with marker to show the number of days since the last accident.

Water Safety Signs

These are similar to the previous signs, but are specific to sites in and around the water and include instruction like no diving, no running, no fishing, no motorised craft and a whole host of other styles.

IRR99 Regulation Radiation Signs

These signs relate specifically to the use of radiation, radioactive waste and other radioactive equipment such as x-rays and lasers. They comply fully with IRR99 Regulations for controlled and supervised areas.

Street Signs

With everything from disabled parking and cycle lane signs to no ball games and residents only parking, there’s a sign for every purpose on the street or in residential areas.

Dog Fouling Signs

Clamp down on dog fouling with signs advising on penalties, legislation against dog fouling and children’s play areas signs.

Multi-Purpose Signs

Multi-purpose signs are neat ways of displaying a combination of signs without being confusing. Some areas or tasks require combinations of prohibitory, hazard and mandatory signage, such as the hazard “Danger: Falling Roof” which also requires the mandatory instruction “Use crawling boards”. Use these multi-purpose signs to keep everything clear.


COSHH is the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health and is a very specific set of guidelines around the handling of storage of potentially hazardous or dangerous substances, chemicals or chemical mixtures. That means you need specific signs you can use in areas where such substances are handled. These signs are multi-purpose with clear pictograms and instructions.

CCTV & Security Signs

Security and CCTV signage is usually yellow and black, with a checkboard pattern around the edge for high visibility. There are a number of different varieties of security sign, including visitors to reception, dog patrols, escort required, ID displayed at all times and many more.

Identification Systems

For warehouses and other storage areas, these specific signs are used to label pallet drops, floor signals, shelves and more. With a range of self-adhesive stickers, magnetic label holders and more, there’s something here for every storage requirement you have, helping you to keep a well-organised and safe storage space.

Cleaning Stands

In metal or plastic ‘A’ frames, these signs fold flat for easy storage and are designed to warn staff and visitors about wet floors, cleaning in progress or men at work, highlighting potential hazards before they cause a problem.

Action Centres

Action centres are signage that also double up as statutory storage, keeping everything together that you need to be compliant with legislation. For instance, the first aid station contains a first aid kit, accident book, information book and sign displaying the first aider and location. Other varieties include a COSHH and Fire Action centre.

Door Sliders

Door sliders can be used for a variety of purposes; usually they’re used to show when a room is in use or available. These sliders are available in a variety of styles and are constructed from silver anodised aluminium, with a choice of text to be applied on purchase. They give an executive, professional finish to any work environment.

Hi-Visibility Armbands and ID Badges

Hi-vis armbands and ID badges are ideal for security personnel, fire wardens, first aiders and other competent persons, making them clearly visible in crowds and offering extra security by allowing them to display ID badges clearly.




Most signs are available in one of three main choices of material, each with its own advantages. The type you choose will usually depend on the location of the sign.

Self-adhesive vinyl

Very thin plasticised film with a permanent acrylic-based adhesive on the reverse. They are situated on backing paper; you just peel them off and stick them on the intended surface. These are low durability and can be easily scratched away; however, they are very cheap and usually come in rolls with plenty of extra signs should they become damaged.

Rigid PVC

Usually around 1mm thick and can be attached to surfaces with screws or double-sided adhesive pads. They can be used internally or externally and are fairly durable. They are easily maintained too, wiping clean easily.

There is also a 3mm rigid PVC style (usually Foamex) and are even more durable and long-lasting than their 1mm counterparts.


This material stores energy from ambient light sources which means that it glows in the dark. Because it doesn’t rely on any power or batteries, it is ideally used in the event of power failure. Check that they meet standard specifications for luminosity so that you can be sure they will be easily seen.

Brushed metal effect vinyl

Often with a self-adhesive backing, these vinyl signs are designed to look like carious brushed metals, usually brass or silver. They give an executive, professional look so are ideal for prestigious décor or office environments.


Aluminium is an incredibly durable and hard-wearing surface. Signs made from this material are usually larger or are designed for exterior use.

Silver anodised aluminium

This is aluminium with a silver coating applied by the process of anodising. It gives an extra thickness to the material and increases its resistance to corrosion and wear, making it ideal for exterior, all-weather signage.

General best practices when buying signs

Individual signs may be fairly low-prices in terms of purchases for your business, but you still need to make sure you get the best deal. Whenever you’re making purchases for the business, you should follow standard best practice to ensure that you get the best quality products at a great price from the best suppliers. Here are some of our top tips for purchasing signs safely and effectively:

Research suppliers before buying

Whether you’re purchasing from a preferred supplier, a well-known High Street brand or a new retailer you’ve never come across before, there’s a wealth of choice open to you when buying signs, especially with online shopping.

However, you shouldn’t just buy from anyone; no matter the supplier you should always do your homework first. Make sure they are trustworthy, legitimate and reputable before agreeing to hand over any money.

Some key warning signs when shopping online include:

  • Red flags or security warnings from your browser or anti-virus software when you visit a site
  • No customer reviews or feedback on the site, or only bad reviews or complaints
  • No registered address or telephone number listed, or only PO Box addresses
  • Poor quality or outdated web design, broken links of images, poor spelling and grammar
  • Prices that seem just too good to be true
  • Very young or brand-new businesses or websites

It’s never been easier than now to check the authenticity of a website and its owner, thanks to the ‘whois’ lookup service. Just type in the URL or IP address of the site and you’ll get the registered information on the owner, including how long the site has been running. It’s possible to hide your details behind those of your web host, but legitimate businesses shouldn’t do this. If you don’t see any details or they look strange, look elsewhere.

Scammers can clone legitimate websites in order to phish for credit card or bank details; thankfully most modern browsers pick up on this, but you need to make sure your browser is updated to the most recent version.

Even if the website you find is authentic, you should try not to purchase from very new, unproven companies. They might have some fantastic deals as they try to undercut the competition, but if they collapse or go into administration, you could lose all warranties or guarantees on your products, leaving you no option but to replace items if they become faulty.

Always check the reviews

Customer reviews are a fantastic way to get more information and background on a product and how well it performs. 5-star reviews are great, but sometimes it’s the 1-star reviews that are the most revealing. They can tell you if a product hasn’t worked well for an intended purpose.

However, just because you see a couple of 1-star reviews doesn’t mean it’s a bad product. Often people will buy the wrong item for the job, not having read descriptions or specifications correctly. Make sure you look at the overall average score and read a selection of reviews first.

Bad reviews can also be a way to gauge how a supplier handles criticism; if you can see responses from the retailer, you might just find that they are friendly, fast and supportive when things go wrong, which is often more valuable than a host of top reviews.

Shop around

It’s really easy to shop around for prices these days, so once you have a product in mind, make sure you visit a number of suppliers to compare the prices. Comparing offers on like for like items is easy with price comparison sites and tools, or just by visiting a number of sites, so get at least a few quotes before making a decision.

It can be worthwhile talking to your prospective supplier to discuss products and get more information. While you do so, it could be worth asking for a discount. Some suppliers will offer a discount for first-time buyers or those opening a credit account, especially if it secures repeat business. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know!

Headline prices are all well and good, but make sure that you know exactly what you are being charged for. Some of the most common unexpected charges you might find include:

  • VAT: Currently at 20% in the UK, this can add a huge chunk onto your bill. Some suppliers will post prices inclusive of VAT, some without, so just check which it is before you add items to your basket.
  • Import or export tax: Shopping with overseas suppliers can occasionally bring you some incredibly low prices, but be sure you won’t be hit with import/export fees. These can be considerable and you won’t see them on checkout; you’ll only find them out when you take delivery of your products.
  • Delivery: Here at Equip4Work, we offer free delivery on almost all products to mainland UK addresses, but if you’re shopping with another retailer, make sure you check their delivery terms and conditions as you could be saddled with a hefty charge.
  • Express: Some retailers will also add a large fee on to courier items to you quickly. We ship many of our products with free next day delivery if you need your items fast.
  • Admin: You’ll rarely find an admin fee charged to you these days, but it’s always worth checking, just to be sure.

Always remember too that price isn’t everything when it comes to buying for business. You’ll also want fantastic customer care, top quality products and aftercare, including warranties or guarantees. Make sure you factor these in when you’re choosing a product.

Only buy what you need

Lastly, make you know what you need before setting out on a purchase and stick to your requirements. By working through this buying guide you’ll have a better idea not only of what’s available, but also what your requirements are.

Don’t be seduced by gimmicks or new technologies unless you really need them. Go back to the answers to your Questions list to check your original requirements and don’t shell out on items that will just gather dust.


Further information

At Equip4Work, we have a massive range of signs for all your requirements. All of our products have clear photos, descriptions and full specifications, with upfront pricing too.

However, if you need some help with a specification you can’t see or you just need some advice on choosing the correct signage for your workplace, you can talk to our Sales Advice Team who would be happy to help.

Get in touch by calling us today on 08444 999 222,  email us at or complete the contact form on our website and we’ll get back to you.

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Last Modified / Updated on: May 31, 2018 at 11:10 am