Fire safety signs and symbols, and their meanings | CheckFire
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Fire safety signs and symbols, and their meanings

Fire safety signs are everywhere. Not only are they vital in making environments safe and directing appropriate action in the face of danger, they’re also compulsory and required to be compliant with fire safety regulations. But are you aware of the variety of fire safety sign meanings? Would you know what to do in the event of emergency?

Here, we pose some frequently asked questions with their answers, so you can check whether your knowledge of fire safety signs and meanings is up to scratch.

What information does a fire safety sign give you?

The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 define safety signs as something that provides “information or instruction about safety or health at work… by a combination of shape, colour and a symbol or pictogram which is rendered visible by lighting of sufficient intensity. In practice, many signboards may be accompanied by supplementary text, e.g., ‘Fire exit’, alongside the symbol of a moving person.”

In short, fire safety signs communicate the safest course of action to take, either preventative or reactive, in the context of fire safety.

How many categories of fire safety signs are there? 

British and International standards categorise fire safety signs into eight main groups:

  • Escape route location signs
    • Identify the direction of travel to escape or exit a building and indicate doorways and openings that will lead to a place of safety. These signs aim to make an evacuation as quick, simple and efficient as possible. Is your fire escape plan the best it can be? Check here.
  • Emergency exit and emergency door release signs
    • Highlight emergency exits and demonstrate opening instructions. These signs should be used on all doors featuring security devices (such as push-to-release opening mechanisms and sliding mechanisms) and doors specifically used for emergency escape. View the range.
  • Safe condition signs
    • Clearly mark and distinguish first aid equipment and its location and provide emergency instructions for people with special needs. Examples include the first aid sign and emergency eye wash sign.
  • Mandatory signs
  • Fire action signs
    • Provide all building occupants with fire safety information and instructions on what to do in the case of a fire. An example might be a fire action chart.
  • Fire alarm and firefighting equipment signs
  • Hazardous materials and atmospheres signs
    • Warn people to be careful or take precautions in high-risk areas, such as industrial buildings where flammable materials and explosive substances are often found.
  • Prohibition signs
    • Inform occupants of inappropriate behaviours which may cause a risk or fire hazard. These signs include things such as ‘smoking strictly forbidden’ and ‘authorised personnel only’.


What do the fire safety signs’ colours indicate?

Red – denotes danger and indicates the location of fire safety equipment. Signs in this colour include those of fire alarms, firefighting equipment (including fire extinguisher ID signs) and prohibition.

Yellow – symbolises warning and is therefore the colour of hazardous materials and atmospheres signs. 

Green – indicates emergency escape, first aid and safety. It’s the colour used for signs such as escape route location, emergency door release, fire exit signs and fire assembly point signs.

Blue and white – indicates a specific required behaviour or action. These colours are used for mandatory signs and fire action signs, including fire door signs.

What are the legal duties and obligations surrounding fire safety signs?

It goes without saying that, as both a legal requirement and a vital safety measure, fire safety signage should never be overlooked. In fact, the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 requires employers, landlords and building owners to provide specific safety signs wherever there is a risk or hazard that has not been avoided or controlled by other means, unless the risk is not significant, or the use of a sign would not reduce it.

There are specific, stringent requirements for safety signs, such as the shape, colour and size. One of the main regulations is that all safety signs must include a symbol or pictogram that clearly defines its meaning. Text can be used to aid understanding, but text-only signs are not permitted.

When fire safety signs are used, the ‘responsible person’ – as defined in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 – must ensure they are well maintained, with any faded or defective signs replaced. They should also explain the signs to people who work within the building, making sure they understand the meaning and actions to be taken in correspondence with them.

Check that all fire safety signage is up to date on your premises, and download our Fire Safety Signs Brochure to view our comprehensive range of signs.

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.

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