BS 5499 Safety Signs, Including Fire Safety Signs

BS 5499 covers all safety warning sign, including fire safety signs and is compatable with the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996. It is also compatable with the ISO standards relevant to fire signs but in regards to EC Safety Signs Directive 92/58/EEC – fire exit signs there is some confusion. Some manufacturers interpretation of the directive and the Safety Signs and Signal regulations and produced an exit sign (Euro sign) which is in conflict with BS 5499. This is very likely to be rectified shortly and Europe will fall in line with BS 5499 and the ISO. There are many warning signs but I will concentrate on the fire warning signs.

A sample of BS 5499 fire warning signs

Prohibition sign No Smoking Sign Prohibition sign no matches Prohibition signs
These signs prohibit actions detrimental to safety
Black graphical symbol on a white circle within a circular red band and behind a red crossbar.
General Mandatory Sign Mandatory sign keep door shut Mandatory sign
Signs that require actions or activities that will contribute towards safety
White graphical symbol on a blue circle. Because the “Fire Door keep shut” sign doesn’t have a pictogram it is not in accordance with EC directive
Oxidising Sign General warning sign Warning signs
These signs give warning of potential risks
Black graphical symbol on a yellow triangle that has a strong black border.
Running Man sign Safe Condition Signs
These signs indicate exit routes in the event of a fire or emergency
These signs indicate exit routes in the event of a fire or emergency
Fire safety sign Hose Reel Sign Fire safety sign Fire telephone Fire Equipment Signs
These signs are used to indicate the location of fire equipment
White graphical symbol on a red square.
Supplementary sign arrow Supplementary sign flames Supplementary Information Signs Determined by the appropriate sign.

BS 5499 Part 4

BS 5499 part 4 is devoted to escape route signing and while good sign design practice is important, the correct application and positioning of those signs is of equal significance in ensuring an effective signing system is in place. The size and positioning of signs within a building should form a major part of the package. It clearly and concisely deals with all aspects of the design of an effective escape route signing system.

Points to consider are

  • Sign type, sign size and viewing distance
  • Construction durability and suitability
  • Servicing and maintenance
  • Illustrations (use of safety signs)
  • Use of arrows to indicate direction of travel

It also deals with the issues associated with designing a co­ordinated system of signing throughout any given building. The code outlines items that need to be addressed in considering the overall design, including,

  • Results of any risk assessment
  • Requirements (if any) of enforcing authorities
  • Operational needs of the building’s managers
  • Convenience of the users of the building, both workers and Public

The code stresses that it is only through the consideration of these factors that an effective design system for escape route signing can be achieved. It provides clear guidance on how to do this.

Examples of BS 5499 Escape route signing

Green Arrow Sign Running Man Sign Fire Exit Sign
Supplementary directional arrow. The internationally recognised graphical symbol for emergency exits Supplementary text


Exhaustive testing both comprehension and judgment testing of graphical symbols conforming to BS5499 and ISO 7010, ISO16069 achieved the highest comprehension credentials. However as it only achieved some 80%, the British Standard requires supplementary text to aid comprehension. This too was tested and achieved 100% comprehension under ISO 9186. (Comprehension Testing Standard) Both International and British Standard Technical committee agreed that Escape Route Location and directional identification should not be left to graphic symbols alone. Consequently escape route signs should normally consist of three elements, the internationally-recognised graphical symbol for emergency exits, supplementary text (Exit or Fire exit) and a directional arrow.

Further Information

The British Standard should be available from your local reference library.

Below is the list of all the BS Standards relevant to fire warning signs.

  • BS 5499-1:2002 Graphical symbols and signs. Safety signs, including fire safety signs. Specification for geometric shapes, colour’s and layout.
  • BS 5499-2:1986 Fire safety signs, notices and graphic symbols. Specification for self-luminous fire safety signs
  • BS 5499-4:2000 Safety signs, including fire safety signs. Code of practice for escape route signing
  • BS 5499-5:2002 Graphical symbols and signs. Safety signs, including fire safety signs. Signs with specific safety meanings and
  • BS 5499-6:2002 – Graphical symbols and signs. Safety signs, including fire safety signs. Creation and design of graphical symbols for use in safety signs. Requirements
  • BS 5499-10:2006 Safety signs, including fire safety signs. Code of practice for the use of safety signs, including fire safety signs
  • BS 5378:Part 2:1980 Safety signs and colour’s. Specification for colorimetric and photometric properties of materials
  • BS EN 60598-2-22:1998+A2:2008 BS EN 60598-2-22:1999 Luminaire’s. Particular requirements. Luminaire’s for emergency lighting


March 28, 2011[Last updated: December 15, 2015]

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