Most businesses are required by law to have planned an emergency exit, and to mark out that emergency exit with signs. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Act of 2005 simplified a lot of the requirements, so that businesses could understand what was needed.
Rather than the traditional complicated rules, it lays out that the person with control over the premises must take steps in order to limit fire risks, and to ensure that people will be able to escape in safety if a fire occurs. Under the new Act, the employer, managing agent or occupier of premises will be responsible for the installation of emergency signs.
What is an exit route?
When you understand the law regarding emergency exits, the next step is to plot an emergency escape route. The exit route needs to be an unobstructed and continuous path out of a building from any point inside, to an external place of safety. The exit route will consist of three important parts:
- Exit access. This is the part of the exit route leading to the exit itself
- Exit. Area of travel which is specifically protected, and leads the way to the final part.
- Exit discharge. This is the part connected directly to the outside, or to a refuge area, where the follower of the exit route will be safe.
In order to comply with the law, the building must have at least one emergency exit. The distance that people are required to travel along the emergency route should be as short as is practical, measuring from the furthest point in a room to the protected stairway or corridor. The distance that is travelled should not be over 18 meters, and for preference should be under 12 metres in high-risk areas, and only 25 metres or less for low-risk areas. You may also need to consider whether you have to have emergency lighting.
Fire escape signage
In all buildings, except for the smallest and most easily-evacuated, fire-safety signs and lights are essential. In most cases, these signs will not be needed on the main route to and from the building, used in every day transit, but alternative routes, included protected stairwells and corridors, will need to be signed. When considering the placement of signs, owners should fit them as though no-one knows the safe routes out of the building. Signs should also be fitted to the outside, in order to direct escaping people towards the assembly point.
All fire escapes should be white and green, and are comprised of a pictogram and an arrow, and sometimes words. Signs which only contain arrows, or words, or both, are not suitable. Instead, the sign must have a pictogram depicting the running or ‘rapidly walking’ man. The signs should be to BS5499 level, showing the running man passing through a door, and lettering in lower case. Signs which feature uppercase text are made 92/58/EEC standards. Plastic fire signs should not be stuck over emergency lights, as this can diminish the illumination. Signs for emergency light switches are green and white, with lower-case writing on them.
Jill Henderson is a representative for Cube Safety Supplies who specialise in supplying health and safety signs for businesses.