Context: Most safety-critical systems have to fulfil compliance needs specified in safety standards. These needs can be difficult to understand from the text of the standards, and the use of conceptual models has been proposed as a solution. Goal: We aim to evaluate the understanding of safety compliance needs with models. Method: We have conducted an experiment to study the effectiveness, efficiency, and perceived benefits in understanding these needs, with text of safety standards and with UML object diagrams. Results: Sixteen Bachelor students participated in the experiment. Their average effectiveness in understanding compliance needs and their average efficiency were higher with models (17% and 15%, respectively). However, the difference is not statistically significant. The students found benefits in using models, but on average they are undecided about their ease of understanding. Conclusions: Although the results are not conclusive enough, they suggest that the use of models could improve the understanding of safety compliance needs.