Fire Safety Signs
This guide to types of fire safety signs makes clear why they are an essential element of fire protection that provides users with important information.
Standardisation of signs
BS EN ISO 7010:2012+A7:2017 aims to bring about consistency in safety signage internationally.
British Standards are not law. They are Codes of Practice, generally affecting only new products, as opposed to those previously produced. However, it is possible for standards to be given a type of legal status when they are referred to within legislation or government-issued guidance and Approved Codes of Practice.
In this case, the relevant legislation is the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations of 1996, also known as the Safety Signs Regulations. These regulations implemented EC Directive 92/58/EEC. They have not been updated, and there’s no apparent plan to change them just yet to incorporate BS EN ISO 7010:2012+A7:2017.
The Duty Holder has an obligation to provide people with information that is essential for their protection.
These signs should be used to indicate actions that must be carried out in order to comply with statutory requirements. Mandatory fire safety signs advise all people within a building on actions that must be followed to prevent fire or accidents. It should be noted that the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 do not apply to mandatory fire instructions (although they become mandatory through inclusion in the requirements of most fire risk assessments) but do apply to health and safety mandatory signs where pictograms are required.
Fire action notices indicate actions that building occupants must do in the event of a fire. These signs take the form of white text on a blue background, although they are not always in a circular format. The blue and white colours used on the signs emphasise their mandatory nature. A general-purpose mandatory sign is a white exclamation mark on a blue circle, which is most commonly positioned next to a fire action notice.
Signs indicating mandatory requirements consist of a blue circle with the pictogram or text in white positioned centrally.
Safe condition signs
This type of fire safety sign takes a green rectangular form with a white pictogram and text located centrally. It indicates the nearest fire and emergency exits and escape routes, as well as first aid kits and other necessary safety equipment. These signs must always comply with Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, current British Standards for fire safety signage and the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act.
Fire escape signs are provided to guide you from wherever you are in a building, via a place of relative safety (the escape route) to the place of ultimate safety (fresh air/the assembly area). Fire escape signs are not needed on the main route into or out of a building (the one used by people for normal arrival and exit), but alternative escape routes and complicated escape routes do need to be signed. It must not be assumed that everyone will know all safe routes through the building. Similarly, it must not be assumed that, once outside the building via a final exit, people will know how to get to the assembly area, so signs directing to the assembly area will be needed as well.
Red firefighting signs indicate where safety equipment is located to tackle a fire, such as fire extinguishers. Firefighting signs can also signal fire alarm activation points. They are often red and can be rectangular or circular in shape with white writing and a pictogram.
In the event of a fire, it’s vital that occupants know where to find firefighting equipment, and which equipment they can use, depending on the type of fire.
Fire extinguisher ID signs come in many formats. They can be fixed to a wall, or attached to an extinguishers stand. You may also need to provide fire safety signs for equipment such as hose reels and dry risers if you have them on your premises.
Perhaps most importantly of all, your fire alarm call-points must be clearly sign-posted so that occupants can easily find where to raise the alarm if they spot a fire. Every call-point should have a sign, and if you also post Fire Action Notices here, the person raising the alarm will have all the information they need to proceed.
These signs should be used to make people aware of nearby danger. These signs are required by the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 and in specific cases by the Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990.
Signs warning of a particular hazard consist of a black band in the shape of an equilateral triangle. The background within the band should be yellow with the pictogram indicating the type of hazard in black positioned centrally on the sign.
Prohibition signs are circular red signs with crossbars running through them, indicating that certain actions are prohibited due to their dangerous nature. For instance, in the case of a fire risk, a sign may indicate that smoking is prohibited in certain areas. All companies should make employees aware of prohibition signs and how they relate to their duties within an organisation.
Directional arrow signs in green, red and yellow colours are supplementary signs that point out safety exits or fire safety equipment.
The use of directional arrows within escape route signs are standardised to ensure that egress is intuitive and efficient. Priority for escape route signs should be given to the shortest route to safety.
Some modern designs incorporate an escape sign and an emergency light. You may find in your premises that a plastic sign has been stuck onto an emergency light. This is not a good idea as the sign will further reduce the illumination provided by the escape light – and the light levels from escape lights are low, to begin with!
Please note that this article provides basic easy-to-understand guidance of fire safety provisions and the key fire safety information required to comply with legislation. Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. We aim to assist you to understand the fire-related terms within your Fire Risk Assessment. It does not provide detailed technical guidance on all fire safety provisions, and you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.
Fire Risk Consultancy Services have the knowledge and experience to assist your business to comply with all legal requirements surrounding fire safety including legislation. Be sure to read our accompanying guides: Fire Alarm System Types, Fire Extinguishers, Emergency Lighting, Fire Door Regulations, also published on this site.
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