Introduced in 2013, the British Standard relating to safe signage – BS EN ISO 7010 – is still relatively new and as such there is still some confusion surrounding it. Paul Dawson, Managing Director, ESP Ltd, seeks to clarify some of the questions it raises.
BS EN ISO 7010 is an international standard for consistent safety sign regulation across Europe. It aims to bring consistency in safety signage. With increasing trade and travel across international borders, ESP believes it is essential to communicate safety information in a common language. So BS EN ISO 7010 specifies safety signs that use standardised symbols instead of words. The standard also reduces the potential for confusion and accidents by ensuring that there is only one sign for each meaning.
The date for adoption was January 2013, when it became a European Normative and replaced the previous British Standard BS5499-5. The standard applies to all locations where safety issues must be addressed, including workplaces and other buildings, ships and public areas; as well as signs that appear in manuals, notices, product labelling, and escape and evacuation plans.
Anyone with responsibility for public or workforce safety will need this standard – in particular building owners, facility managers, safety managers and sign makers, and people who select, install or inspect safety signs.
Whenever a new British Standard is published for any kind of product, there seems to be a rush of literature on the back of it claiming that you have to replace this or that in order to comply. BS EN ISO 7010, relating to graphical symbols, safety colours and signs, and registered safety signs, is no exception.
Is it the law?
No, British Standards are not law. They are Codes of Practice, generally affecting only new products, as opposed to those previously produced.
Do signs need to be upgraded?
Currently, you are under no legal obligation to change your signs and it is highly unlikely that any such requirement will ever be introduced. For the time being, you can keep your old signs according to the previous BS 5499. However, considering the functionality and practicability of the new signs, you may want to consider upgrading your signs to the new regulations immediately.
When looking to purchase new signs, it is advisable to ensure they meet the new BS EN ISO 7010. It will be hard not to, anyway, as most of the sign manufacturers no longer produce the non-compliant BS 5499 versions.
Are mixed symbols allowed?
It is highly recommended by Health and Safety Guidance that the two different types of signs, BS 5499 and BS EN ISO 7010, should not be mixed in the workplace. The guidance recommends consistency in style and design throughout a building. However, this is only a recommendation, so it isn’t actually illegal to mix sign types. Nevertheless, consistency will be much more important in public buildings. On that basis, if you are adding a few signs to a building that consistently follows EC Directive 92/58/EEC, it is worth seeking out matching signs, at least for the time being, even though they’re not designed to the latest standard. If you are starting from scratch with a new building, go with a new standard. And if your situation is somewhere between those two, do what seems most logical.
If you wish to use signs in accordance with best practice, it is best not to mix symbols from old and new standards. Particularly in critical situations, signs marking fire escape routes, for example, can save lives. In this scenario, ambiguous signs can lead to confusion and cost lives.
“Under the standard of BS EN ISO 7010 the DOWN arrow should only be used to identify a change of level going down (for example at the top of a staircase).”
Where some confusion lies
Before 2013, the traditional emergency sign used above doorways to identify the escape route pictured a DOWN arrow. Under the standard of BS EN ISO 7010 the DOWN arrow should only be used to identify a change of level going down (for example at the top of a staircase).
Following the introduction of BS EN ISO 7010 the directional arrow above a corridor doorway should be the UP arrow. This is to inform the occupants that they need to carry straight on.
We know that there is an issue, as here at ESP we still sell three times as many down arrow products as up ones. The proportion should be the other way around. Make sure you are not caught out.