Relevant Legislatory References


Under law, key aspects of the requirements regarding Fire Safety Signage are clearly defined and provide specific guidance.  The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 forms the basis of UK law and it is the RRO that will be referred to in any litigation and therefore should be adhered to.  The RRO is also underpinned by other legislation and standards which can be considered to be “best practice” and these define specific factors such as standardisation, size, categories, positioning and technical characteristics etc.  These include:


  • BS 5499 British Standard: Safety Signs Including Fire Safety Signs
  • ISO 16069:2004 Graphical Symbols – Safety Signs – Safety Way Guidance Systems (SWGS)
  • ISO 7010:2003 Graphical Symbols – Safety Signs Used in the Workplace & Public Areas
  • The Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals Regulations) Act 1996


It is important for the end user or “responsible person” to clearly understand what their responsibilities under law are and consequently; what constitutes an offence.  The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states:

Part 1 General - Meaning of “responsible person”

3. In this Order “responsible person” means—

a)      in relation to a workplace, the employer, if the workplace is to any extent under his control;

b)      in relation to any premises not falling within paragraph (a)—

  1.        I.   the person who has control of the premises (as occupier or otherwise) in connection with the carrying on by him of a trade, business or other undertaking (for profit or not); or
  2.     II.   the owner, where the person in control of the premises does not have control in connection with the carrying on by that person of a trade, business or other undertaking.

 

Part 1 General - Meaning of “general fire precautions”

 

4.—(1) In this Order “general fire precautions” in relation to premises means, subject to paragraph (2)—

a)        measures to reduce the risk of fire on the premises and the risk of the spread of fire on the premises;

b)        measures in relation to the means of escape from the premises;

c)        measures for securing that, at all material times, the means of escape can be safely and effectively used;

d)       measures in relation to the means for fighting fires on the premises;

e)        measures in relation to the means for detecting fire on the premises and giving warning in case of fire on the premises; and

f)         measures in relation to the arrangements for action to be taken in the event of fire on the premises, including—

  1.          I.     measures relating to the instruction and training of employees; and
  2.       II.     measures to mitigate the effects of the fire.

 

Part 2 Fire Safety Duties - Duty to take general fire precautions

 

8.—(1) The responsible person must—

a)        take such general fire precautions as will ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of any of his employees; and

b)        in relation to relevant persons who are not his employees, take such general fire precautions as may reasonably be required in the circumstances of the case to ensure that the premises are safe.

 

  • The “General” (Part 1) section of the RRO outlines the legal definition and requirements of a “responsible person” specifically with regard to a premises and their function.  It also defines the scope and breadth of those responsibilities, particularly in the context of “general fire precautions”

 

  • The “Fire Safety Duties” (Part 2) section of the RRO outlines in greater detail specific areas of responsibility and provides clear instruction and guidance regarding actions and measures to be implemented.

 

Part 4 Offences and Appeals

 

Offences

 

32.—(1) It is an offence for any responsible person or any other person mentioned in article 5(3) to—

a)             fail to comply with any requirement or prohibition imposed by articles 8 to 22 and 38 (fire safety duties) where that failure places one or more relevant persons at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire;

 

  • The “Offences and Appeals” (Part 4) section of the RRO provides the legal imperative for conformity of the requirements laid out in Part 2 Fire Safety Duties

 

Specific Legislation for Signage Types

 

  • Non Automatic Fire-Fighting Equipment (Call Points, Extinguishers etc)

 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states:

Part 2 Fire-fighting and fire detection

 

13.—(1) Where necessary (whether due to the features of the premises, the activity carried on there, any hazard present or any other relevant circumstances) in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons, the responsible person must ensure that

a)             the premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment and with fire detectors and alarms; and

b)             any non-automatic fire-fighting equipment so provided is easily accessible, simple to use and indicated by signs.

 

  • This section instructs that the appropriate fire-fighting equipment (extinguishers, hose reels, fire blankets etc) should be clearly identified by signs.  Contrary to popular belief this does not mean an ID sign.

 

Often, this leads to confusion regarding what sign should be positioned with many engineers assuming that this reference means ID signs, however, this is not correct.

 

  • Extinguisher ID Signs

 

Is it a legal requirement to show Fire Extinguisher ID Signs at the location of Fire Extinguishers? - Strictly speaking - The answer is NO.  There is not one British Standard or law that explicitly tells us to display this sign.

However, there are three pieces of legislation that have a bearing on whether or not they should be used:

  1. 1.   The Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals Regulations) Act 1996  states that at fire points the relevant symbol should be shown, particularly if the fire extinguisher itself is obscured.
  2. 2.   BS 5499 British Standard: Safety Signs Including Fire Safety Signs gives guidance on how and where this should be fitted i.e. 1.7 to 2.0 m off the ground.  As such, legally this portion of the fire extinguisher ID sign must be shown, but not necessarily next to the fire extinguisher itself.
  3. 3.   Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 and its subsequent amendment notices and guidance notes state that some form of training and instruction must be given on fire equipment. This could be anything   from hands-on training to written instructions. In turn, these written instructions could be in the form of a permanently affixed sign.

 

The above Regulations were then absorbed into the The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 without there being any further explicit and mandatory instructions on the subject.  So, generally at this point the standard response from the engineer stating that it is the law and/or the standards/regulations is not strictly accurate.

However, the most compelling argument for having a fire extinguisher ID next to every fire extinguisher actually comes from a piece of non-fire related legislation.  The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Act 1998  clearly states that if you provide a tool or piece of equipment that is intended for use by staff or visitors, you have a clearly defined legal duty to provide “adequate training or instruction” on that piece of equipment. With only an estimated 2% to 4% of UK employees actually receiving hands-on fire extinguisher training, the need for ID signs next to the fire extinguishers themselves becomes critical.  Not only because it safe-guards every person that elects to pick up and use a fire extinguisher but it also protects the owner of the building from a lawsuit.  History shows us that fire extinguishers, if used incorrectly, can present as much risk as they seek to prevent. For example, untrained operators of a CO2 extinguisher can asphyxiate themselves in confined spaces. Equally using a water or foam extinguisher on an electrical based fire can easily result in a pooling effect that can ultimately lead to electrocution of the would-be fire fighter.  Using all three of the above pieces of legislation, there is certainly a compelling legal case for it. Ultimately, Fire Extinguisher ID signs are essential in preserving life and property in the event of a fire occurring.

  • Emergency Route Signage

 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states:

Part 2 Fire-fighting and fire detection

 

14.—1 Where necessary in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons, the responsible person must ensure that routes to emergency exits from premises and the exits themselves are kept clear at all times.

        2 The following requirements must be complied with in respect of premises where necessary (whether due to the features of the premises, the activity carried on there, any hazard present or any other relevant circumstances) in order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons—

a)             emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety;

b)             in the event of danger, it must be possible for persons to evacuate the premises as quickly and as safely as possible;

c)             the number, distribution and dimensions of emergency routes and exits must be adequate having regard to the use, equipment and dimensions of the premises and the maximum number of persons who may be present there at any one time;

d)            emergency doors must open in the direction of escape;

e)             sliding or revolving doors must not be used for exits specifically intended as emergency exits;

f)              emergency doors must not be so locked or fastened that they cannot be easily and immediately opened by any person who may require to use them in an emergency;

g)             emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs; and

h)            emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.

 

This is also underpinned by the International Standard ISO 16069:2004 Graphical Symbols – Safety Signs – Safety Way Guidance Systems (SWGS) which constitutes “best practice”.  Regarding the illumination of emergency route signage It states –

3.1 Marking - “Safety Way Guidance System method of highlighting and identifying specific building components or equipment by means of light emitting material fixed to building components or illumination provided by separate light sources”

Essentially, the regulations state clearly that Emergency Escape Route signage needs to be illuminated either by Hard Wired Electrical Lighting or Photo-luminescent signage with our signs representing a more cost effective engineered solution.

  • Consistency of Emergency Route Signage

 

The mixing of different sign types and styles is also not considered to be “best practice.  International Standard ISO 3864 – 1:2001 Graphical Symbols – Safety Colours and Safety Signs & International Standard ISO 7010:2003 Graphical Symbols – Safety signs used in the workplace and public areas state the following:

 

“Introduction – There is a need to standardize the system for conveying safety information so that it relies as little as possible on the use of words to achieve understanding.  As a consequence of continued growth in international trade, travel and mobility of labour, it has become necessary to establish a universal communications method for conveying safety information”

“The process for selection of variants for comprehension testing according to ISO 9186 shall be as follows:

-                 In a collection of variants with very similar content reduce to one variant

-                 Exclude variants which offer a strong possibility of confusion due to graphic similarity or duplication with standardized graphical symbols or graphic elements

 

Additionally, International Standard ISO 16069:2004 Graphical Symbols – Safety Signs – Safety Way Guidance Systems (SWGS) also states:

 

“SWGS shall provide consistent and coherent information to occupants so that they can be evacuated in an orderly manner from any place within an occupied area to an assembly area” with “Consistent and unambiguous use of escape route signs and directional indicators”