The importance of fire safety signs cannot be overestimated. In fact, that is why legislation requires that everybody within the workplace should be aware of their use. This includes knowing where fire alarms, emergency equipment and the nearest fire exits are.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the different types of fire warning signs and how their use can help you enforce your fire safety policies to keep everyone protected in the event of an emergency.
What are the different types of fire warning signs?
Although fire warning signs have the same overall job – providing health and safety information – there are many variations and types. You will find that all signs are phot luminescent which means they glow in low light conditions for high visibility.
Safety signs can be split into four main colour groups – red, blue, yellow and green. Each one of these groups gives a specific type of information.
- Prohibition signs (red): these prohibit behaviour that is likely to cause a risk to health or safety. They can also be used to locate fire equipment and provide supplementary information. Most are circular with a red border, white background and black image warning you of what not to do. Others are square with a red background and white images, and they are used to show where fire-fighting equipment can be found.
- Mandatory signs (blue): these indicate actions that must be carried out in order to comply with statutory requirements. Mandatory signs have a blue background and are circular in shape, with a pictogram or text in white positioned centrally. There may also be a rectangular box in which all the important information is written in a clear way.
- Safe condition signs (green): these contain crucial information on what to do in the event of an emergency and help to keep your workplace safer by detailing vital information such as where first aid kits can be found, who trained first aid personnel are, and correct emergency procedures. They appear as a green rectangle or square with the imagery or text in white, positioned centrally.
- Warning signs (yellow): these are used to make people aware of a nearby danger such as a specific fire risk in a building, or flammable liquid store in a laboratory. They compromise a bright yellow background with a triangular black outline.
Where should fire warning signs be placed?
All signs that are relevant to fire safety need to be placed in a clearly visible location. Visitors traversing your site should always be near signs indicating the nearest emergency exit, alarm and/or extinguisher, making sure that changes of direction are clearly presented.
For example, a Fire Action Notice should be placed next to every fire alarm call-point as well as at every final exit door where they are most likely to be seen in the event of a fire.
Make sure not to display fire safety signs in compromised locations such as behind machinery, and keep existing signs in mind when changing the layout of your premises. Generally, wall mounted signs should be 1.7 metres off the ground, making them easy to read and eye-catching.
Keep your emergency signs separated from other signs, notices and posters. A crowded noticeboard is a poor location for vital fire safety signs where they can easily fade into the background with all the other info .
Signs should be attached to walls or doors that are adjacent to alarms or extinguishers, not only to highlight their location but also to show people how to use them in an emergency, and on which type of fire they are effective.
What are the most common fire safety signs in businesses?
- Fire action signs: describe what should be done in the event of discovering a fire or upon hearing the alarm. They include information such as emergency services phone numbers, nearest exit points and the safe assembly point.
- Fire extinguisher signs: should be placed adjacent to fire extinguishers to let people know what type of fires they are suitable for and how to use them.
- Fire exit signs: clearly inform occupants where the nearest emergency exits are, the safe evacuation route and evacuation procedures.
- First aid signs: inform people where the nearest first aid kit is located and give more detailed information, including who the relevant first-aider is and emergency instructions.
- Fire equipment signs: clearly notify the location of fire equipment including fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire hoses and emergency stop buttons.
What signage is legally required?
In the UK, there are two main laws surrounding the use of safety signage, which are:
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
- The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996
You will need to carry out a fire risk assessment which includes identifying people at risk, assessing the suitability of fire safety measures in place and developing a fire safety action plan. Once this is in place it should be regularly reviewed for safety reasons.
Signage is an area of fire safety that is more often than not overlooked by employers. However, to be fully legally compliant businesses will be required to install at least two fire safety signs ((a Fire Action Notice and Extinguisher ID sign) around their premises, and often many more.
Make sure that any signs you place are compliant with the latest guidance including ISO 7010:2011 for graphical symbols — safety colours and safety signs.
Author Bio: First Mats started life as safety matting specialists, but have since expanded to become a complete industrial and commercial supplies company. The focus of First Mats is to provide safety-focused products that improve the wellbeing of staff through quality approved products, backed up by extensive knowledge. www.firstmats.co.uk