The British Standards Specification

When installing any fire safety items or equipment in a premises it is very important that it meets the highest quality standard and is installed correctly. Also when it is called upon, in a fire situation, it will achieve its function and will operate as expected.

This is achieved by ensuring the equipment and the installation meets the standards as laid down in the appropriate British Standard Specification. Also when negotiating a contract with the installer ensure he fully understands your requirements, those of the BS standard and it is clear that it is their responsibility to provide a commissioning certificate when the fire safety system has been installed.

A list of relevant British Standards for this website are listed at the bottom of this page.

What is a British Standard

A standard is defined as a document, established by consensus and approved by a recognized body, that provides, for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results. But a standard is so much more they are varied and can exist for things (e.g. fire alarms) and, increasingly, for making things happen (e.g. services) but mainly standards represent an indispensable level of know-how in any given area. In the context of public contracts or international trade, standards are essential to simplify and clarify contractual relations.

Any standard is a collective work. Committees of manufacturers, users, research organizations, government departments and consumers work together to draw up standards that evolve to meet the demands of society and technology. British Standards staff act as secretaries to these committees and project manage the production of standards (BSI is the oldest national standards body in the world).

To give you an idea of the scope of British Standards’ work, last year 1400 new standards were published and some 3000 technical committees and working groups covering 16,000 standards were supported.

Who needs standards and why are they important?

By law, many industry bodies and trade associations require products (e.g. fire alarm detector heads) to conform with a British standard or a European directive before they can be offered for sale in the UK or EU; this ensures members compete on equal terms.

The use of standards is becoming more and more of a prerequisite to worldwide trade. A very large percentage of export is influenced by the European and international standards business. For instance all European Union standards are automatically adopted as British Standards.

Above all, any business, large or small, can benefit from the conformity and integrity that standards will bring. Management standards, in particular, can be of benefit to any organization. Standards are essential to trade in increasingly competitive markets. They ensure any business offering products, services or processes is, cost-effective and time efficient, commercially viable, credible and safe.

The trend is towards international standardization, particularly through ISO (International Organization for Standardization). Exciting new technologies are making it possible to interact instantaneously and trade globally. To maximize exporting potential, standards that reflect a global perspective and common understanding need to be in place and used. Consumers’ too, value the reassurance of safety and quality that conformity to a standard brings. Standards enable the creation of a safer, healthier workplace, in the case of environmental management, facilitate progressive steps towards eliminating the harmful effects of industry on the environment.

Specific benefits to business include:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Cost and time effectiveness
  • Legal compliance
  • Better management (through management standards)
  • Integrity
  • Trust
  • Ability to build a better brand
  • Ease of export/credibility as an international player.
  • Every business can benefit from standards – from industry giants to sole-traders seeking to maximize competitive advantage.

The types of standards – British and Worldwide

Both British and International standards cover the entire spectrum of products, services and processes from administration to zip fasteners. BSI’s Library has access to over 500,000 different standards). There are also many foreign standards.

  • All British standards use the product identifier “BS”
  • All British adoptions of European Standards are identified with “BS EN”
  • All International standards are identified with “ISO”
  • All International standards adopted as British standards are identified with “BS ISO”.
  • Technical Information Group (TIG) classifies International standards and can advise you on many areas of your business such as product consultancy and labelling.

BSI has developed a method of classification of British standards called ICS, based on a hierarchical structure of three levels. For further details, you can order an electronic or hard copy of the BSI catalogue.

Why do we have Standards?

What would life be like if, credit cards were different sizes, light bulbs didn’t fit into lamps, railway lines were different widths, microwave ovens emitted large amounts of harmful radiation, washed clothes no longer fitted because there were no care labels or warnings. Standards affect our daily lives in many ways, making life easier, safer and healthier. Here are a few examples, ensuring electrical wiring is safe in the equipment we use in homes and offices, rationalising clothes sizes across different countries, assisting businesses to improve the environment with environmental management systems, advising on safety of sunglasses to protect our eyes, guidance on Data Protection to protect us from inaccurate information being held on us by companies and employers, and helping to make buildings more accessible to disabled users.

How do I purchase a standard?

Standards come as hard copies, CD-ROMs or as electronic copies for Subscribers to British Standards Online. Becoming a BSI Member can entitle you to significant discounts and other benefits. For further details, please visit our Purchase a Standard page or call to speak to Customer Services on +44 (0) 20 8996 9001.

European Standards

There can be two British Standards for the same subject for example emergency lighting BS EN 50172:2004 specifies requirements whereas BS 5266-1 is a code of practice giving recommendations. Standards normally relate to products, while the codes of practice relate more to installations, theoretically, codes of practice are not specifications (even though we all tend to use them as such). Standards on the other hand, relate to products mostly, having a pass/fail criteria for the purpose of third party certification (e.g. kite marking). With standards the word “shall” is used and the word “should” is not because a test lab would not be able to test a product using the pass/fail criteria. Thus, technically, standards contain ”requirements”, albeit that they may not be legal requirements and it is simply that if you want to claim compliance, you comply with the entire standard. A code of practice is the opposite, it contains only recommendations so there are no requirements, and the words ”shall” and ”must” cannot be used. Our European cousins are not into codes of practice, but only product standards so the EN is, as you say, a standard that contains requirements. The bottom line is that you can use the new EN now, and adopt its requirements, rather than those of the British standard. Any affected British standards will be subjected to revision in any case, and a DPC will be available. The amended code will remove any conflicts with the EN and will refer to it for guidance on maintenance.

Further Information

British Standards Institute online

Re levant British Standards

Fire Doors

BS 8214:2008 Code of practice for fire door assemblies
BS EN 1634-1:2008 Fire resistance and smoke control tests for door, shutter and, openable window assemblies and elements of building hardware. Fire resistance tests for doors, shutters and openable windows which is an alternative for BS 476 – 22: 1987

Portable Fire Extinguishers

BS EN 3-10:2009 Provisions for the attestation of conformity of portable fire extinguishers in accordance with EN 3 Part 1 to Part 5. Amendment 1
BS EN 3-7 2004 + A1: 2007 Characteristics, performance requirements and test methods
BS EN 3-8:2006 Additional requirements to EN 3-7 for the construction, resistance to pressure and mechanical tests for extinguishers with a maximum allowable pressure equal to or lower than 30 bar
BS 7863:2009 Recommendations for colour coding to indicate the extinguishing media contained in portable fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishing installations and equipment on premises.

BS 5306-0:1986 Guide for the selection of installed systems and other fire equipment
BS 5306-1:2006 Hose reels and foam inlets
BS 5306-2:1990 Specification for sprinkler systems
BS 5306-3:2017 Commissioning and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers.
BS 5306-4:2001 Specification for carbon dioxide systems
BS 5306-5.1:1992 Halon systems. Specification for halon 1301 total flooding systems
BS 5306-5.2:1984 Halon systems. Halon 1211 total flooding systems
BS EN 13565-2:2009 Fixed firefighting systems. Foam systems. Design, construction and maintenance
BS 5306-8:2000 Code of practice for Selection and installation of portable fire extinguishers.

Emergency Lighting

BS 5266-1- 2011 Gives general rules and guidance on the provision and operation of emergency lighting in most premises other than dwellings
BS EN 1838:1999/BS 5266-7:1999 Specifies the illumination to be provided by emergency lighting (including luminance, duration and colour)
BS EN 50172:2004/ BS 5266-8:2004 Specifies the minimum provision and testing of emergency lighting for different premises
BS EN 60598-1: 2008 Luminaire’s. General requirements and tests. Check out the 60598 series for particular requirements.
BS EN 62034:2006 Automatic test systems for battery powered emergency escape lighting .Specifies a test system for battery powered emergency lighting
BS EN 50171:2001 Specifies central power supply systems for luminaire for emergency lighting

Fire detection and fire alarm systems

BS 5839-1:2017 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for system design, installation, commissioning and maintenance
BS EN 54-11:2001 Fire detection and fire alarm systems. Specification for manual call points has replaced BS 5839-2:1983
BS 5839-3:1988 Specification for automatic release mechanisms for certain fire protection equipment.
BS EN 54-4:1998 Fire detection and fire alarm systems. Power supply equipment has replaced BS 5839-4:1988
BS EN 54-2:1997+A1:2006 Fire detection and fire alarm systems . Control and indicating equipment has replaced BS 5839-4:1988
BS 5839-6:2004 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in dwellings
BS 5839-8:2008 Fire detection and fire alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of voice alarm systems
BS 5839-9:2003 Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of emergency voice communication systems

Guides to BS 5839

BIP 2109:2008 The Design, Installation, Commissioning and Maintenance of Fire Detection and Fire Alarm Systems: A Guide to BS 5839-1 (3rd edition)
BIP 2044:2004 A Guide to BS 5839-6:2004
BIP 2124:2009 The Design and Installation of Voice Alarm Systems. A Guide to BS 5839-8

Associated British Standards

BS 5446-2:2003 Fire detection and fire alarm devices for dwellings. Specification for heat alarms
BS 5446-3:2005 Fire detection and fire alarm devices for dwellings. Specification for smoke alarm kits for deaf and hard of hearing people
BS 5979:2007 Remote centre’s receiving signals from fire and security systems. Code of practice


March 24, 2011[Last updated: December 5, 2017]

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