A guide to Fire Safety Signs

Everyone in a workplace must be made aware of fire exits, fire equipment and fire alarms. This is why fire safety signs are so important for businesses and must be installed adequately and effectively to comply with regulations and save lives. Here, we outline the regulations relating to fire signage, discuss the four types of fire safety signs, and offer a detailed guide to the various signs your business will need.

What are the regulations on Fire Safety Signs?

In the event of an emergency, training or ‘common sense’ is not an acceptable expectation or safety measure. Your business may frequently have guests or visitors, who would not be trained in your business’ fire safety procedures. In addition, emergencies induce panic, which can displace rational decision making. This is why highly visible signage is so important; it offers clear guidance at an extremely dangerous time.

There are two important pieces of legislation you need to be aware of in relation to fire signage: the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 (HSR) and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety Order) 2005 (RRFSO).

The HSR outlines the correct types, applications and maintenance of fire signage, while the RRFSO introduces the responsible person and risk assessment, which pertain to the identification and action of measures required by the HSR.

While all businesses need at least three fire safety signs, the HSR states that ‘the number and positioning of signs or signalling devices to be installed will depend on the extent of the hazards or dangers or on the zone to be covered.’ This means your business has unique safety considerations and must adequately install and maintain signage, including (but not limited to) fire extinguisher ID, fire exit, escape route and assembly point signs. But, who is responsible for this?

The RRFSO requires all businesses to appoint a responsible person, who is accountable for fire safety. One of the principal duties of the responsible person is to carry out a risk assessment, which involves a careful, considered and competent examination of the business’ fire safety risks. After all risks have been identified, the responsible person must take measures to minimise their likelihood or impact, installing fire safety equipment, such as the right types of fire extinguishers, and fire safety signs.

Categories of Fire Signage

There are four main types of fire safety signs, all of which must be installed clearly and maintained adequately. These are:

  • Fire action notice: explaining what to do in the event of a fire
  • Fire equipment: highlighting where fire fighting equipment is located
  • Fire exit and door: marking the route to emergency exits and clearly identifying fire doors
  • Warning and prohibition: alerting people to danger and warning them of unsafe actions

Below, we offer a more detailed guide to the meaning of each.

Fire Action Notice Signs

A fire action notice tells people what to do in the event of a fire, offering clear instructions as well as ‘do not’ instructions. These include: raise the alarm; leave the building via the nearest exit; report to the assembly point; and do not return to the building.
They are vital to protecting lives and reducing panicked decisions as they offer simple steps to take in an emergency.
These are essential in all business premises, including offices, multi-occupancy residential buildings, and hospitals. To learn more, read our guide to fire action notices now.
Fire Action Notice Sign

Fire Equipment Signs

The RRFSO states that non-automatic fire-fighting equipment must be ‘easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs’.
All premises that keep fire fighting equipment must have adequate fire equipment signs in place, located in a clearly visible position close to the piece of equipment.
While there are many signs, including fire hose reel and fire blanket signs, the most common is a fire extinguisher ID sign, which details the type of fire extinguisher and which classes of fire can be tackled with it.

There are several classes of fire, which are distinguished by their fuel source. These include:

  • Class A fires: carbonaceous materials
  • Class B fires: flammable liquids
  • Class C fires: flammable gases
  • Class D fires: burning metals
  • Electrical fires
  • Class F fires: cooking oils and fats

As a result, there are many types of fire extinguisher, designed to tackle numerous or specific classes of fire. These are:

  • Water fire extinguisher
  • Foam fire extinguisher
  • Dry powder fire extinguisher
  • CO2 fire extinguisher
  • Wet chemical fire extinguisher

Fire extinguisher ID signs quickly show people what the fire extinguisher is suitable for, which is vital given that using the wrong type can quickly make a fire worse. To learn more, read our in-depth guide to the different types of fire extinguishers.

Fire Equipment Signs

Fire Exit and Door Signs

All non-domestic properties, and multi-occupancy residential buildings, need fire exit and fire door signs. However, in buildings less than two stories high, these signs may not be needed.
If you believe your premises is covered by this, you should refer to the RRFSO for assurance and peace of mind.
Fire exit signs and fire door signs provide clear guidance as to how to safely evacuate the building, as well as instruction on fire safety measures.
For example, a fire exit is depicted by a green running man sign and may also tell people to keep the area clear, which reduces the risk of obstructions.
Similarly, a fire door sign might also inform people to keep the door shut, reducing the spread of smoke and fire in the event of an emergency. Learn more with our guide to fire exit and fire door signs.
Fire Exit & Fire Door Signs

Warning & Prohibition Signs

While they may sound similar, there is a distinct and important difference between warning and prohibition signs. Warning signs let people know there is a fire risk nearby, while prohibition signs display an action that must not be performed to ensure fire safety.
For example, a flammable gas container may have a flammable gas warning sign as well as a no smoking prohibition sign.
Fire Warning & Fire Prohibition Signs

What do the colours of Fire Safety Signs mean?

Green fire exit signs

Just as a green traffic light signals it’s safe to go, a green fire safety sign shows people a safe route or action in the event of a fire. For example, fire exit signs are coloured green.

Blue fire safety signs

Blue fire safety signs display an action that is required for fire safety, such as the instructions on a fire action notice or the ‘keep clear’ and ‘keep shut’ messages on fire door signs.

Red fire safety signs

A red fire safety sign indicates a prohibited action that must not be performed in order to maintain fire safety, this might include the pieces of information on fire extinguisher ID signs relating to which substances the fire extinguisher must not be used on.

Fire safety signs are vital for protecting lives and complying with legislation. Discover our wide range of fire safety signs and, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact us by phone, email or web chat and our customer service team will be happy to guide you or discuss our custom sign service.

Darren Taylor, managing director of UK Safety Store
With over 30 years' experience in the manufacturing and regulations of safety signs, our managing director Darren prides himself on providing the very best services and insights for all UK Safety Store customers.