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Categories of fire safety signage: a guide

Business and commercial property owners have a legal obligation to provide adequate safety signage for their customers, employees and visitors, to ensure they’re aware of the correct procedures to follow and actions to take in the event of a fire. Here, we offer a detailed guide to the various categories of fire signage, their importance and functions, and the legalities surrounding their use.

What are the fire safety signage regulations?

In the event of a fire, it’s vital that everyone in a building is aware of evacuation routes, fire exits and fire safety equipment. Clear, highly visible fire signage is a crucial part of this, quickly and simply communicating potentially life-saving information. The Health & Safety (Safety Signs & Signals) Regulations (1996) compels employers to provide adequate and specific safety signs wherever there is a risk or hazard of fire. The colour, shape and size of each sign category is stipulated by stringent requirements. This includes a symbol or pictogram to clearly show the sign’s meaning. Text-only signs are not permitted, but text can be used in addition to a symbol. Signs must be well maintained by the ‘responsible person’ (that is, an employer in a workplace environment, or occupier or owner of the premises if not a workplace), as stated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Understanding categories of fire signage

There are several fire signage categories that businesses must have in place, each covering an essential aspect of fire safety including, prohibited and mandatory actions, warnings, exits, safe conditions and fire safety equipment.

Prohibition signs

Displayed in a red circle, prohibition signs are used to highlight actions that should not be performed in the area as they may increase the risk of fire. For example, a ‘No Smoking’ or ‘No Naked Flames’ sign indicates that these actions are prohibited due to their potential to ignite a fire. These are especially prominent in areas where flammable liquids or gases are present, such as petrol forecourts.

Mandatory fire signs

Conversely, mandatory fire signs detail mandatory actions that should be performed to improve fire safety and are coloured blue. For example, a fire door sign is used to ensure the door is kept closed, reducing the spread of fire and smoke during an emergency.

Warning signs

These yellow, triangular signs highlight a specific fire hazard associated with the area. This could include flammable materials, liquids or gasses or electrical equipment. Warning signs are typically found in conjuncture with prohibition signs.

Fire exit and safe conditions signs

For fire assembly points, escape routes, exits and first-aid equipment, use safe conditions and fire exit signs, which utilise green, rectangular designs. This colour has a common association with ‘go’ – if you consider traffic light colours – and quickly communicates a safe route of travel in the event of a fire. It is essential for businesses to display these signs clearly and appropriately to adhere to fire exit sign regulations.

Fire equipment signs

Using red and white colours, fire equipment signs highlight the location of a number of vital items, such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets and hoses. They should be located close to the piece of equipment they refer to. For example, a fire extinguisher ID sign should be situated next to the extinguisher it references. If you often find yourself asking ‘what does the fire extinguisher sign indicate?’, download our full guide to extinguishers, including their labels, types and uses.

For more guides on fire safety for business and commercial property owners, visit our resource centre and benefit from a host of industry-specific guidance.

The content of the CheckFire blog is for general information purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure accuracy at the time of publication, under no circumstances should it be considered professional advice. Any reliance you place on the information is at your own risk. Always seek the advice of a fire professional for your particular circumstances and requirements.
  • by Amy Moseley

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