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The no smoking debate and legislative battles around banning smoking in public areas is thought to be a modern construct, but funnily enough, this debate has run for over 500 years.

The first recorded example of smoking being banned came in 1575, where the Roman Catholic Church barred smoking tobacco in Mexican churches. In the UK, King James I signed an anti-smoking treatise in 1604, A Counterblaste to Tobacco, raising taxes on tobacco to prevent the rise of smoking. What is seen as a modern health and safety scare is, really, a battle that has been fought for hundreds of years.

However, the science behind the dangers of second-hand smoke in public places and the workplace is much more recent. With the rise of advertisement and tobacco lobbyists in the early twentieth century, the dangers behind smoking were concealed for many years. Nowadays, in Britain, smoking is banned in all public workspaces, as a consequence of several laws: Health & Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005, The Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006, Smoke-free premises (Wales) Regulations 2007, and 2006 Health Act for England. But why is smoking banned in these spaces and why are no smoking signs so important?

The Dangers behind Second-Hand Smoke

The research behind second-hand smoke suggests that it is more dangerous than direct smoking. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace see their risk of lung cancer increase by 16-19%.

Employers have been held liable for exposing workers to unnecessary second-hand smoke; exposing workers to this type of smoke puts their long-term health and your long-term finances at risk.

Thankfully, there is overwhelming proof that smoking signposting and segregation measures work. A report in September 2018 by the University of Stirling found that there has been a 97% reduction in second-hand smoke over the past 20 years in Scotland. This reduction is as a direct consequence of the smoking ban, which required much more diligent uses of the “No Smoking” sign than ever before.

This hasn’t been a long-term effect, either. Immediately following the ban in 2007, bar workers – those who were most likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke, saw an immediate decrease in respiratory-related illnesses. In a review commissioned by the Department of Health in 2011, a 27% decrease in these illnesses post-ban, were recorded.

In essence, if your workplace does not have clearly signposted “No Smoking” signs and a segregated smoking area, then you are putting workers at risk. If your business is a public place, then there is a significant risk of exposure to your customers. It is illegal and liable to a fine or loss of licence for your business.

The Law

The no smoking ban was introduced on July 1st 2007, making it illegal to smoke in all public enclosed or substantially enclosed spaces, areas and workplaces. This ban includes public transport, along with train station platforms.

In order to comply with the law, businesses must “display ‘no smoking’ signs in all workplaces and vehicles”.  As a result, it is the business’s responsibility to ensure appropriate ‘No Smoking’ signs are put up, as well as signposting the designated smoking area, preferably away from any doors and windows.

Local councils are responsible for enforcing this law, usually dishing out fixed penalties for those found breaking the ban. These bans extend to both the individual and the business:

  • Businesses can be fined up to £2,500 for not preventing people from smoking or up to £1,000 if they don’t display appropriate No Smoking signs.
  • Managers are responsible for smoke-related incidents on the premises.
  • Individuals and workers can be fined up to £200 for not adhering to the ban.

Where to Place a No Smoking Sign

The law is pretty clear-cut on where to place a No Smoking sign. Following the Smoke-free (Signs) Regulations legislation of 2012, at least one legible “No Smoking” sign must be displayed in public premises, workplaces and vehicles.

However, it is up to the business to ensure these signs are placed in the right places. Generally, businesses will need more than one No Smoking sign up and fit specific specifications. Typically, signs must follow these specifications:

  • At least the same size as an A5 piece of paper (21cm x 14.8cm)
  • Must have the internationally-recognised No Smoking symbol in the centre, complete with the red circle and bar.
  • The text “[no] smoking in this premises” must be somewhere on the sign. “Premises” can be replaced for the name of the premises in question (bar, café, factory, etc.)

In addition to the above, businesses are encouraged to have a smoking area clearly labelled with a “Smoking is permitted” sign, ensuring any on-site smoking occurs in this area.

Smaller secondary signs may be used to supplement this main one, too, but the minimum specifications can be easily met by our range of No Smoking signs at Label Source.

Label Source has a 25-year pedigree in the industry, alongside our No Smoking signs, be sure to check out our extensive range of warning signs and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest health and safety news.

Warning signs – commonly referred to as caution or danger signs - fall under specific categories, namely electrical, hazardous materials, environmental dangers and dangerous environments. As a result, these signs are immensely important as they warn against workplace risks that have a direct impact on human life. When proper warning sign protocols are not followed, the costs are immensely high in both cost and human life.

Before deep-diving into the costs of warning signs, it’s important to be clear on each type of sign and their meanings:

  • Warning signs – may result in injury or death
  • Caution signs – tends to be damage to a product
  • Danger signs – a major threat to life

The costs of improper electrical signs

There was a 15% increase in workplace electrical fatalities in 2015-16, a major sign of a worrying trend: ignorance of proper warning signs. The majority of these injuries – 53% - took place in the construction industry, with younger workers 2.3x more likely to be the victims of this type of injury.

Electrical injuries can fall under a wide umbrella of terms, including electrical shock, thermal burns, muscle injury and electrical burns. These injuries can be properly circumvented by proper use of workplace danger signs and a firm understanding of their meanings.

On average, those who suffer from electrical injuries take 5 days off work. When extrapolated over the working population, this equates to hundreds of thousands of days lost in sick pay and manpower. In essence, signage pays.

The costs of improper hazardous signs

Hazardous materials account for a significant portion of workplace injuries in the UK. Usually, these are long-term injuries, with the HSE estimating that, yearly, around 13,000 deaths from occupational lung disease and cancer are caused by past exposure, primarily to chemicals and dust, at work.

Much of this exposure is via accidental spills, usually from human error and materials not being labelled properly. The result is a cost in the millions for NHS treatment. Whenever a hazardous material or chemical solution is spilled, it must be properly signposted and quarantined. There should be a process in place for safe cleaning and removal should be strictly followed.

Biohazard information is difficult to obtain given its place in geopolitical politics and public safety. Labs, though, despite their strict protocols, had 400 accidents with dangerous pathogens over a 7-year period, with 196 of these cases coming from a “loss of containment” with 77 spills.

Spills and accidental losses of containment usually come from incorrect signposting and a lack of training, potentially costing a lot of money, lives and, in the case of biohazards, a nation’s safety.  

The costs of improper environmental signs

Properly signposting and labelling hazards in the environment is of paramount importance for workplaces, especially where working at height is common. In 2013-2018, 26% of all fatal injuries in the workplace came from falls from height, most of which could have been avoided with proper environmental warning signs.

The second-highest cause of workplace fatalities is being struck by a moving vehicle. Again, these injuries could have been avoided through proper environmental signage, particularly on factory floors where workers need to be made aware of forklift traffic channels and loading bays.

Label Source has a number of warning signs suited to environmental hazards which can, when augmented with proper training and re-training, help prevent this number of fatalities from growing.

Workplaces must ensure warning signs are used if they are required; an employer simply cannot avoid putting labels in place.

These types of consequences are not short-term, either. Asbestos, for example, is still a major issue in the modern world, with its effects coming from both improper signage of asbestos areas, as well as poor safety equipment or removal.

Asbestos should always, without excuse, be labelled with an appropriate asbestos sign. We stock plenty of these at Label Source in a variety of sizes and designs.

Label Source has a 25-year pedigree in the industry, so browse our extensive range of warning signs and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest health and safety news.