Don’t be mislead over Fire Safety Signs
March 20, 2009barriehol
The implementation of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which was put on the Statute in October 2006 has since caused widespread confusion with Safety professionals and Businesses alike and has led to a lot of misinformation and misinterpretation.
The ambiguities in the legislation have resulted in some questioning the compliance of fire safety provisions installed prior to the new Legislation coming into force. Fire Safety Signs has been a particular issue.
The RRO did sweep away or replace a raft of previous legislation but this did not include the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. These Regulations brought into force the EC Safety Signs Directive (92/58/EEC) on the provision and use of safety signs at work. The objective was to encourage the standardisation of safety signs throughout the Euro Zone so that safety signs, wherever they are seen, have the same meaning.
Is your Fire Safety signage legal?
In the case of fire safety signs, where a sign is not of a type referred to in the Regulations you had until 24 December 1998 to replace it. All safety signs now need to meet the requirements of the new 1996 Regulation.
In general complying with the new Regulations will not require any changes where your existing fire safety signs contain symbols and comply with BS 5499:Part 1:1990 This is because the signs in BS 5499, although different in detail to those specified in the new Regulations, follow the same “visual message” design as you can see below.
If you are approached by a signage supplier claiming you need more or different signs because of the new RRO 2005 legislation be sceptical and ask them to prove their case. I doubt they can.
What fire safety signs do you need?
As a general rule all fire safety evacuation signs have to be sited so as to be conspicuous and visible in poor light. Wall or door mounted signs should ideally be 1.7 -2 metres from the floor and not obscured or covered in any way. Internal emergency lighting should be considered if there is no adequate external source for example a street light. Photo-luminescent signs help with visibility but are not a substitute for appropriate emergency lighting.
If you have more than one fire escape route ensure that your signage is clearly marked for each exit.
Information signs should be placed adjacent each fire extinguisher, hose reel, fire blanket etc to alert occupants of their location and to explain the type and method of operation. Fire escape doors should be identified with a sign on a closely adjacent surface -not on the door as it won’t be visible once opened.
For a business it is also important to a have a general Fire Action Notice displayed explaining your fire safety and evacuation procedures and assembly point for the benefit of staff and visitors. You must complete the details and instructions indicated on the notice- it’s the first thing a safety inspector will check.
Finally it is advisable to display the Health and Safety at Work Regulations (and responsibilities) on a suitable poster in your Reception or communal areas.
Where evacuation from buildings is needed, the Regulations require the audible fire alarm signal to be continuous. In noisy environments and where any occupants are otherwise hearing impaired strobe beacons should be installed to supplement the Audible alarm. Fire alarms conforming to BS 5839: Part 1:1988 Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings do not need changing, nor do other acceptable means such as manually operated sounders (e.g. rotary hand bells).
See the detailed guidance Safety signs and signals: Guidance on Regulations – The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 HSE Books, 1996 ISBN 0717608700 £8.50
Further information on the different types of fire and safety signs can also be found in our Fire Safety Signs and Notices product pages.