Signs, signals and road markings

Key messages

  • By law, traffic routes must also be suitably indicated where necessary for reasons of health or safety.
  • Install clear signs to tell drivers and pedestrians about the routes they should use.
  • Where signposts are used, they should be constructed to Highway Code standards
  • Make sure the signs are kept clean and visible.

Questions to ask

Your risk assessment should answer these questions:

  • Where do we need signs and road markings?
  • What are the potential hazards?
  • Who has right of way at crossings?
  • Which signs do we need to
    • warn?
    • inform?


Use road junctions and road and rail crossings as little as possible. If you have to use them, clearly sign and mark them and they should be clearly signed and marked to show the right of way. At rail crossings, the right of way should be in favour of trains, as even at low speeds they cannot stop easily.

You should mark and sign routes across open areas or yards. You may also need suitable road markings and signs to alert drivers to restrictions on using traffic routes. Find out more in Signs, signals and markings


You may need to highlight hazards on traffic routes by using suitable warning signs. These hazards may include:

  • Sharp bends
  • Junctions
  • Crossings
  • Blind corners
  • Steep gradients
  • Roadworks

Find out more in Signs, signals and markings

It may be useful to provide a plan of the workplace at the entrance (and at other appropriate points) showing vehicle routes and one-way systems, especially at workplaces that have visiting drivers.


Traffic signs help you to:

  • tell drivers and pedestrians – in good time – about the routes they should and should not use;
  • instruct people how to behave safely (for example, whether they must use protective equipment, and how); and
  • prevent drivers moving their vehicles to areas where pedestrians or other drivers might not expect them.

By law, road signs used to warn or inform drivers and pedestrians in private workplaces must be the same as those used on public roads, wherever a suitable sign exists. Road signs are set out in The Highway Code. Drivers and pedestrians should be able to expect that the layout, signs, road furniture and markings on site will be similar to those on public roads.

You should place signs so people have time to see and understand them, and take any action to reduce risks before they reach the hazard.

Make sure that signs are:

  • clear and easy to understand;
  • obvious enough to be noticed;
  • clean and well maintained so that they are always visible; and
  • reflective and lit if they need to be visible in darkness.

Find out more about reflective and lit road signs in "BS 873-1: 1983 Road traffic signs and internally illuminated bollards".


You can use traffic lights to control the flow of traffic at busy junctions, at narrow places and at site entrances. You can also use speed sensors and flashing warning signs to help control the speed of traffic.

Road markings

Route markings help you to:

  • instruct drivers (for example, 'SLOW'); and
  • show:
    • traffic lanes
    • route edges
    • priority at junctions
    • stop lines
    • no-parking areas
    • pedestrian crossings.

White road markings regulate traffic, yellow markings regulate parking. Double yellow lines should be applied along the edges of routes where parking is not allowed, but do not rely on these to prevent parking in these areas without enforcement.

Road markings are usually applied as either a cement-based paint or as 'thermoplastic' markings. Thermoplastic markings have advantages over paint, but are slightly more expensive. Tyres can soon scrub away cement paint markings, whereas thermoplastic markings have a longer life because they grip the surface better. They also remain slightly raised for longer, making them easier to see and providing better grip for vehicles.

Markings are made reflective by adding tiny glass beads. These can be mixed into the marking material or dusted on the surface after it has been laid (or both). Thermoplastic markings are normally both premixed and dusted with beads, but painted lines are normally only dusted after they have been laid. As thermoplastic is rubbed away by vehicle tyres, more beads are exposed, but when painted lines wear away the beads are worn away, leaving the markings unreflective.

Renew road markings when they fade. 'Road-lining' contractors often charge a call-out fee, so it is usually cheaper to have them lay as much as possible in one go. However, this is not a reason for waiting to refresh dangerously faded markings. Your local authority highways department should be able to provide a list of these contractors in your area.

If the overhead clearance on a route is limited, consider signs to tell drivers this. If the clearance is less than 4.5 m, signs will almost certainly be needed if road vehicles might use the route. As usual, signs should be clear and easy to understand from a distance that will allow drivers to act in good time. If possible, they should also be placed to allow drivers to choose a safe route.


Signs are shown in the correct style with descriptive text as required by - The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. These regulations encourage all member states of the European Union to use standard safety signs and signals, so that safety signs, wherever they are used, have the same meaning. There are four types:

HSE has published a free leaflet called "Signpost to The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996" that may also help.

Safety signs and signals. The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. Guidance on Regulations (L64)

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