Fire Safety Signs and how to choose


Fire Safety Signs
Fire Safety Legislation for England and Wales changed in 2006, with the introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Similar legislation is in place for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Fire Safety Order does not specify what signs are required, but it does place a great number of responsibilities on the 'Responsible Person' for the building, be it a workplace or not. Apart from domestic premises, ships, aircraft, trains, offshore rigs and a few other exceptions, then it applies everywhere.

What the Fire Safety Order does specify is that the responsible person must make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures.

This is where we really discover the need for signs, whether they are for Fire Doors, Fire Alarms or Call Points.

There is no need for a small sign above 9Ltr Extinguisher stating 'Fire Extinguisher', because you have seen the appliance before you see the sign; however, if the extinguisher, hose reel etc is hidden in an alcove or cupboard, then a clear sign showing the location is definitely required.

Equally, signs proclaiming the location of Call Points help them stand out amongst other items, but they must be placed where they provide the greatest value, not immediately above the little red box. If your workplace uses different audible alarms or flashing beacons for different reasons, it's probably a good idea to place a sign next to the one which is the Fire Alarm, to prevent confusion.

The Fire Actions Sign, which tells you what to do and not do in the event of a fire, is not mandated in any legislation, but it comes back to that requirement to "make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate". Consequently, some might think they are not required. However, if you have a busy workplace, have visitors etc, then you have to inform them what to do in the event of fire alarm activation and a Fire Action Notice serves a very valid purpose. Even if you have given your staff the periodic fire training which they are supposed to receive under the requirements of the Fire Safety Order, Fire Action Signs serve as a suitable reminder around and about the workplace until their next training takes place. The larger the premises, the greater the value; only in a very simple premises, such as a single office with 5 people and one doorway, would they be unnecessary.

Blue information signs, such as 'Fire Door Keep Shut' or 'Fire Door Keep Clear' all serve the important purpose of protecting escape routes. They get the message across that the door serves a purpose, either protecting an escape route or providing an exit. So Fire Rated doors along escape routes should all be a good fit and carry a 'Fire Door Keep Shut' sign, while cupboards, switch rooms etc should all have 'Fire Door Keep Locked' sign if appropriate. It is sometimes necessary to keep locked any doors which could be mistaken for a way out during an emergency, such as stock rooms with dead ends.

The outside of Final Exit doors should always be identified with a 'Keep Clear' sign, to let people know it must not be obstructed at any time.

Bernard Carey MCGI, GradIOSH, DipNEBOSH, EnvDipNEBOSH served over 30 years as an engineer and health and safety officer in the Royal Air Force. Now specialising in providing cost effective health and safety support in the East Midlands for smaller organisations such as shops, pubs, offices, charities and family run companies, all the ones who can least afford to have an accident, to keep their staff safe. T: (01476) 500 130 E: contact@belvoirsafety.co.uk