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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Safety Signs – Part 176

November 14, 2022 12:16 pm

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 175, LWF talked about directional sounders. In part 176, we begin to look at fire safety signage.

There are two current British standards relating to the use of fire safety signs and fire safety notices.
BS 5499-4 – Safety signs – code of practice for escape route signing
BS 5499-10 – Guidance for the selection and use of fire safety signs and fire safety notices

The Health and Safety Executive also produce a guide, Safety Signs and Signals – The Health and Safety Regulations 1996 – Guidance on Regulations which is available free as a PDF.

Workplace regulations regarding fire safety in the UK are laid out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO) and covers all aspects of fire safety, not just fire safety signs.

There are different types of fire safety sign – safe condition, mandatory, fire equipment, hazard and prohibition.  Any sign that provides information on escape routes, fire exits or fire-fighting equipment is covered by the requirements of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations which details the necessary appearance of each sign. The purpose in standardising the appearance of such signs is that it allows people to become familiar with each sign and its meaning and the information is transferable between workplaces.

The HSE document does not stipulate where and when a sign should be provided, instead, the onus is on the building or business owner to provide a sign wherever a risk cannot be mitigated. The necessity for a fire risk assessment, as laid out in the RRO means that such potential risks will be highlighted and fire safety signage may form a part of the solution.

The RRO requires that emergency routes and exits, along with manual fire-fighting equipment, should be indicated by appropriate signage wherever necessary to safeguard relevant persons in a fire situation. Again, ‘wherever necessary’ pertains to the areas of risk found while undertaking the fire risk assessment.

While many of the signs detailed in BS 5499 are graphical in nature, these may be expanded upon by the use of ‘supplementary’ signs using words. It would not be considered acceptable to simply use a sign bearing words without the original sign showing the graphic. The graphic symbols are, generally speaking, internationally agreed so as to enable non-English speakers to understand the sign. The supplementary sign may be in English, but in the case of employment of non-English speakers, the meaning of the supplementary signs should be clarified during fire safety training.

In part 177 of this series, LWF will discuss safe condition signs. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 35 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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