Fire Safety Signs (Part 1)

Everyone will have noticed fire safety signs dotted around most workplaces at some point. Fire safety signs have been so commonplace that it is difficult to imagine the world without them. But before the 1992 Safety Signs Directive came into effect for all EU members, there wasn’t a complete, rigorous set of laws governing health and safety signs and standards in the workplace.  These laws were then updated to the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 legislation.

The above regulations cover a wide range of safety guidelines, but we’re only looking at fire safety signs in this article – click on the link above if you’d like to find out more about it.  In this article, we’re going to summarise some of the regulations around fire safety signs and we’re going to look at the different kinds of fire safety signs, as they all fall into different categories, such as:

  • Prohibition signs
  • Mandatory signs
  • Warning signs

Then in tomorrow’s blog post we are going to cover

  • Fire equipment signs
  • Safe condition signs
  • Supplementary information signs


When and Where Are Fire Safety Signs Applicable?

According to the Safety Signs and Signals Regulations, employers are required to put up signs anywhere where employees may be at risk. Obviously, the level of risk in an area can be subjective, so there are many guidelines about each specific risk. If you are in any doubt about the potential fire risk of an area, then you might as well put up a fire safety sign, or at least consult an expert. The Safety and Signs regulations apply to workplaces where measures have not been taken to completely secure employees’ safety. A safety sign is not required in areas where there is no obvious risk, or the risk isn’t significant enough. But as this is sometimes unclear, you are always better to use too many signs than too little.

Sign Standardisation

Over time, the safety signs have been standardised to make it even clearer what each sign means. As such, there are specific groups of signs that have specific colours, shapes and other features. We will cover prohibition, mandatory, and warning signs in this blog post and finish the list in tomorrow’s blog post.


Prohibition Signs

All prohibitions signs tell people what they should not do, such as ‘no smoking’ or ‘no naked flames’ etc. Prohibition signs all have a red circle with a line through it from left to right. The background should always be white and the image depicting the prohibited activity should be black.

Mandatory Signs

All mandatory signs are blue circles with the text and/or pictogram in white. Mandatory signs are used to inform people about actions they have to carry out in order for them to meet statutory requirements. In construction sites, mandatory signs tell people when they must wear hard hats; a common mandatory sign relating to fire safety is ‘Fire door keep shut’.

Warning Signs

Warning signs are exactly what they sound like: they warn people of a potential danger nearby. There may be some sort of flammable fuel nearby or some other kind of hazard. Warning signs should have a yellow background with a black outline and black text/pictogram.


Please read the Fire Safety Signs (Part 2) for even more information about fire safety signs.

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