Sign installation and maintenance specialist Xmo Strata has called for sign and canopy manufacturers to make forecourt signs more robust in the wake of a two-month spell of abnormally high winds during which a 58-year-old man was killed when a canopy on a Sainsbury’s forecourt in Lancashire fell on him.

"The higher and more exposed a sign is, the more likely it is to suffer wind damage, and forecourt canopies are particularly vulnerable," said Steve Martin, managing director of Xmo Strata, whose specially trained crews were answering nearly 80 emergency calls a day at the height of the January storms. "Once the corner of a canopy sign has been damaged it becomes a pretty urgent issue because the wind will get right inside the canopy and could destroy the entire structure."

Depending on the circumstances, sign components - once detached from the sign - could travel through the air at pretty much the speed of the wind and are potentially fatal, according to Martin.

He said the wind had got underneath some canopies and ’rocked’ the entire structure, destabilising the foundations under pillars, and requiring extensive construction work during the repairs.