Legislation states that everyone within the workplace must be provided with relevant fire safety information. In regards to fire safety signs, this means that everyone must be aware of the location
of fire alarms and emergency equipment, as well as understand where the fire exits are located and how to access them safely.
The individual requirements for your premise’s fire safety signs will be determined by your business’ individual risk assessment – however, this short guide to fire safety signs introduces the main signage available and shows you in which situations they should be displayed.
Why are Fire Safety Signs Important?
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that all workplaces must have adequate safety signs to point people towards fire-fighting equipment, emergency routes and emergency exits. Primarily, they are used to warn and instruct employees of risks to their health and safety.
This legal requirement is vital because, without proper signage, you are potentially putting employees’ lives in danger. Under health and safety law, all employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their employees whilst at work: fire safety signs are just one of the many things that you can do to comply with this requirement.
What are The Rules on Fire Safety Signs?
The following tips for fire safety signs, as stated in the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, provide some guidance on which signs should be used and how and where they should be displayed:
- Fire safety signs should always be clear and unambiguous – ensure that fire safety signs are
used to clearly and effectively indicate the escape routes and exits in case of fire.
- Escape routes and doors must be obviously labelled – any door that could be confused with an emergency exit door should be marked clearly with a sign or notice reading ‘no exit’, ‘no way out’ or labelled with their use, such as ‘storeroom’.
- Escape route signs must be displayed all along the exit route – signs should be placed at all changes of direction in corridors, stairs or open spaces as well as above all doors or junctions.
- Fire safety signs should be illuminated – this ensures that they can always be seen and be legible, including in conditions where the power is lost.
- Direction arrows are included on escape route signs to indicate the quickest route to safety– wherever you are in a building, it is important that you can immediately see a sign for the nearest fire escape route. Directional arrows are included on each sign to point towards the more efficient route out.
- Final fire exit signs should not have arrows on – emergency exit signs above the final exit door should not feature arrows. Instead, they should be replaced by just the image of a running man or simply have the words ‘exit’ or ‘fire exit’.
- Don’t mix signs – stick to all European Standard signs or all British standards signs: don’t mix the two.
- It is recommended that fire safety directions are in picture form with supplementary text -signs need to be suitable for use by everyone, including those who have poor vision, suffer from dyslexia or do not have English as their first language. Supplementary text will also ensure that the graphical symbol’s meaning is fully understood. The Disability Discrimination Act further says that you must make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for the disabled, including displaying braille and tactile fire safety signage alongside the standard picture signs.
- Signs should be positioned at an appropriate height – signs need to be visible from a distance (full guidance on which can be found from the British Standards Institute in the document BS 5499 Part 4). Signs above doors should be 2m from the floor or 2m down when suspended from the ceiling and wall signs should be 1.7m from the floor.
- Businesses should teach their employees about the different fire extinguishers available in the workplace – a diagram of the different types of fire extinguisher is featured below.
- All employees should know the location of the nearest fire alarm and what to do in an emergency – this is a legal requirement and can be done by training staff, using ‘fire alarm call point’ signage and displaying a Fire Action Notice sign in a visible place.
- Fire-fighting equipment must be identified with signs – for example, signs indicating the location of a fire hose reel or extinguisher.
Which Fire Safety Signs are Need for Fire-Fighting Equipment?
Article 13 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states that ‘any non-automatic fire-fighting equipment so provided is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs.’ The signs used are as follows: