8 steps to creating an effective health and safety poster

22 November 2014

Including tips on design, how to print it and where to put your finished posters.

Are your workers ignoring health and safety signs? Are they ‘zoning out’ after a few days and picking up bad habits? Does this have a negative effect on safety?

Businesses must keep their workers safe; it’s their legal responsibility to do so under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.  Of course, employees also have a duty to be aware of health and safety and follow their company’s procedures, but that’s easier said than done.  Even conscientious workers sometimes lapse if information is ineffective.

But if your workers aren’t following safety procedures, then they’re not safe and it’s up to you to do something about it.

So, what can be done?  Health and safety posters are a great way to raise awareness and remind workers what they need to do.  This article provides you with 8 top tips for creating posters that workers won’t ignore:

1.  Write a brief – If you were outsourcing the task, what would you ask for?  It’s useful to write a brief for yourself outlining who you want to target (everyone or a specific group?) and what you want to change (behaviour or raise awareness of an issue?)

2.  Audience – Always have your target audience in mind. What are they like? What tasks do they carry out? Workers must be able to relate to the poster.  For instance, if staff are all young with no children then a poster showing a father with his children won’t hit home.  Likewise, a manual handling poster showing a man lifting a box won’t be very effective if your workers lift sacks of flour.

3.  Image – Images that demonstrate the effects of an accident on home life can be really effective as they appeal to workers’ own interest in protecting themselves. For an example, take a look at this 1940s poster published by the American Mutual Liability Insurance Company of Massachusetts.

SW 10.10.14 Your Plans For Tomorrow Depend On Safety Today

Using silhouettes or photographs of your workers to illustrate tasks being carried out correctly (e.g. manual handling) are effective because workers can ‘project’ themselves into the poster. Alternatively, using eye-catching images such as cartoons (like this Simpsons poster) are easily recognisable and attract instant attention.

SW 10.10.14 Simpsons Safety Poster


4.  Text – Less is more. Simple, punchy messages are more effective. Use a simple, clear font and use a high contrast of colour between text or image and the background so the message really stands out. Remember you don’t need to fill every bit of space with logos, pictures and text or the poster will be swamped with too many messages.

5.  Check – Ask a colleague to proofread your poster for any spelling mistakes that you may have missed.

6.  Formatting and printing – The size of your poster should depend on the urgency and importance of the message so a poster reminding engineers to isolate a machine before fixing it should be large. If A3 or smaller meets your needs then you could print it yourself using the office colour printer.  However, if you’re after a larger size or a more sophisticated look, it’s worth going to a professional printer. For professional printing: use CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, key) to ensure the printed colour is the same as on your screen, set the resolution to at least 300dpi so the image isn’t pixilated, set the file type as pdf or tiff with no compression.

7.  Display – Where to hang it? Posters relating to location specific hazards i.e. a poster about a specific machine or piece of equipment should go near it so that it’s easily visible. Posters that are more general could be displayed in break rooms or hallways. Don’t put too many posters up, especially in one place, or workers won’t be able to take them all in. Posters lose their impact after about 4 weeks so plan a series of campaigns throughout the year which focus on a different theme to keep it fresh.

8.  Feedback - Engage with workers and ask for their feedback and suggestions for improvement. 

If you’ve found this article useful and have created your own health and safety posters using the tips above, we’d love to see them – just upload them via the comments box below.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. 

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