A Guide to Fire Safety Signs in the Workplace
Fire safety signs are something that surrounds us in our everyday lives. Despite their number, many people are unaware of the different colours and meanings of key fire safety signs and symbols, although they may encounter them daily.
No matter where you work, all workplaces must have fire safety signs displayed around the premises to instruct staff and visitors on how to prevent fires and how to respond if a fire takes place. These signs are universal and have been designed so that anyone should be able to understand them and follow their instructions.
Each workplace should have an established fire safety plan which every staff member is made aware of, and part of this includes understanding the different fire safety symbols and signs around the workplace. In this article, we explore each of the types of fire safety signs, what their colours mean, and why these are so important in the workplace.
The piece of UK legislation controlling the use of health and safety signs is The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, which includes general information about fire safety signage. As part of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, a number of different fire safety signs should be utilised on-site to provide the following:
All fire safety signs fall into one of five main categories, each with a distinctive colour associated with their respective area of fire safety. These categories are prohibited and mandatory action notices, warnings, fire exits, safe conditions and fire safety equipment.
The colour blue is used for mandatory fire safety signs. These signs provide relevant safety information for building occupants, including what to do in the event of a fire, and usually have a lot of text on them, as well as certain symbols.
Blue fire safety signs provide vital information about what to do in the event of a fire, including colour-coded instructions on where to go and what to look for. Normally, blank spaces are left on these signs to allow workplaces to write bespoke locations for assembly points and who to report things to.
One of the most common blue fire safety signs is the ‘Fire Door Keep Shut’ sign which is displayed on most workplace fire doors. This will usually be small, circular and displayed at hand height.
‘Fire Action Notices’ are another common blue sign in fire safety that will be displayed at work. This will contain information about what to do in the event of a fire and specify who to call, how to exit the building and where to assemble at a safe distance.
Red signs signify the location of firefighting equipment. This allows for easy identification in an emergency and sometimes also advises people on how to use the equipment.
Fire equipment signs are used to indicate fire extinguishers, fire blankets, fire hoses and fire buckets. These signs may also carry additional information about the correct usage of the respective firefighting equipment, such as prohibited methods of operation.
The most common red fire safety sign that you’ll see in a workplace is the fire extinguisher sign. This contains a white illustration of fire extinguishers and the words ‘fire extinguisher’, and may be displayed next to a different coloured sign detailing how to use it.
Another common red fire safety sign indicates where a fire alarm is, including the words ‘fire alarm’ and an illustration. These kinds of signs are usually always square or rectangular.
Yellow signs in fire safety indicate a dangerous substance in the vicinity which you should be cautious of because it poses a fire risk. These will typically carry the words ‘Danger’ or ‘Caution’ to reinforce their importance, as the substances can cause major damage if improperly handled.
Some workplaces may only have a few yellow fire safety signs, whilst others using or storing dangerous substances will feature a lot of these warning signs. They're usually triangular in shape and will include an illustration that indicates either the substance or the risk that it poses.
The most common yellow fire safety sign you’ll see in a workplace is the ‘fire hazard’ sign. This features the universal sign for a fire hazard, which is an illustration of a flame above a surface.
Green fire safety signs convey the location of doors, exits and escape routes used for emergency escapes in the event of a fire evacuation. Some of these will be luminous fire safety signs which are backlit to allow for better visibility in the dark and ensure people can find escape routes in almost any conditions.
Emergency exit signs are some of the most common fire safety signs that you’ll find in all workplaces. They are usually displayed above doors, on the walls in stairwells or along fire escape routes.
A classic feature of a green fire safety sign is the illustration of a person running through a doorway. This is usually accompanied by an arrow pointing in the direction of the emergency exit, which may point down or up if you need to change levels.
Another very common green fire safety sign in the workplace is the ‘fire assembly point sign’. Along with the text, this includes an illustration of a group of people with arrows pointing towards them and indicates that this is where people should gather after an evacuation.
White signs with a red circle and diagonal line are prohibited fire safety signs. This symbol creates the classic ‘Do Not’ symbol over an image and indicates something that must not be done because it poses a fire risk.
As mentioned in the Fire Action Notices, you will see prohibition notices when outlining what not to do in the event of a fire.
The most common one of these signs you’ll have seen is the ‘No Smoking’ sign, which will be especially prominent in areas where there are flammable materials nearby. Another is the ‘no naked flames’ sign, which is a black and white illustration of a lit match covered by the red ‘do not’ symbol.
Fire safety is important in the workplace because it can prevent injury and save lives. Without fire safety measures such as fire equipment signs and fire directional signage, building occupants are more at risk of accidentally starting a fire, causing a fire to spread or being unable to safely evacuate their workplace in the event of a fire.
Everyone should make themselves aware of the fire safety signs and symbols around their workplace and take the time to understand the purpose of each of them. You may never have to use fire safety equipment or come into contact with flammable substances, but it is more likely that you’ll need to follow fire exit signs or read mandatory fire safety signs to find out where to assemble or who to call if a fire takes place.
If you’re responsible for fire safety in your workplace, fire safety is incredibly important because failing to fulfil your duties could harm your colleagues and put the business at risk of legal action. You will need to make sure that all the necessary and relevant fire safety signs have been displayed around your workplace and that these are kept up to date with the right information.
There are five main colours that are used on fire safety signs in the UK. These are: red, blue, green, yellow and white with red.
Mandatory fire signs are blue and white. These signs include information that helps to keep building occupants safe, which is usually instructions about what to do in a fire or how to prevent the spread of fire.
Fire exit signs are green with white detail. They may be illuminated or made of glow-in-the-dark material so that they can be seen in the dark.
Fire safety signs contain information that many people might never need to follow. However, it is very important to understand why these types of fire safety signs are displayed around workplaces and the kind of information each of them contains. In the event of an emergency, being familiar with health and safety fire signs could save your life.
Virtual College’s e-learning ‘Fire Safety Training’ course can help give further information about fire safety signs and more. The interactive course covers modules on the fire triangle, legal requirements regarding fire safety, types of firefighting equipment and more, helping your staff to become more aware of fire safety and assist employers with internal fire safety training.