A “significant number” of forecourt price signs in the UK are vulnerable to windy weather because of flawed foundations, and could cause fatal accidents, installation and maintenance company Xmo Strata has warned.

Xmo Strata boss Steve Martin said he could put a precise figure on the number of signs affected but anecdotal information fed back by crews through the company’s XmoMan project management system was building a picture that should focus minds in the industry.

“The problem is sometimes that sign foundations are unseen and uninspected for a long period of time,” he said.

“We’re not suggesting that there should be any degree of alarm about this – but the fact is that if a sign is brought down by the wind, as happens occasionally, anyone standing in the way is unlikely to survive.

“They can weigh one to two tonnes and have sail-like qualities in a storm. Contractors should inspect them at every reasonable opportunity and report any apparent shortcomings to the client.”

Xmo Strata crews attended several signs this winter which posed a potential threat to site staff and customers.

Martin says: “Clients are always grateful to be made aware of problems and they are always dealt with professionally, but contractors are very price-sensitive and sometimes price jobs like replacement signs without a proper inspection of the foundations.

“They do that because addressing problems in the foundations can be expensive and they fear it might price them out of the job. But failing to address problems could ultimately lead to tragedy, as most clients are acutely aware.”

Xmo Strata crews are told to do a visual inspection of sign foundations whenever they work on a sign – particularly replacing one.

“We are sometimes asked to replace a sign with a larger one, and find that the foundations are not even suitable for the existing sign,” said Martin.

“One key factor is the shape of the foundations – really, it’s that simple. They should be square or oblong, not oval or an irregular shape; the sides should be clinically vertical, with well-defined corners. Yet we quite often find oval-shaped foundations which taper underground in towards the centre of gravity of the sign, because that is the easiest, simplest way to dig a hole. It’s like putting the sign on a pivot, and signs on foundations like that are much more likely to move in a strong wind. No signs should ever move in a wind.”