Occupants of any building of any type need to be able to find their way out in an emergency safely and effectively and for this purpose fire safety signs are employed. It is also necessary for all signs to be made clearly visible for all the occupants of a building. Safety signs, if used and placed correctly, are a cost effective method of reducing the risk of a range of safety hazards, which are present in all types of commercial premises, of ever occurring or becoming out of control.
Australian Standard AS 1319-1994 sets forth design and use standards for safety signs used in the occupational environment. Safety signs are classified by function into groups. Use these guidelines to determine which sign classification best suits your applications.
Standard safety signs are used as an aid to
- communicate information on hazards;
- communicate the need for personal protective equipment (where other control strategies are inadequate or impracticable)
- communicate the location of safety equipment/emergency facilities (eye wash stations, first aid kit);
give guidance and instruction in an emergency.
Types of Safety Signs
There are two main types of safety signs referenced in Australian Standard 1319 – 1994 Safety Signs for the Occupational Environment. These are:
- picture signs which utilise text and symbols to represent the hazard, equipment or process as well as the standard colours and shapes used to convey a message eg. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) signs;
- signs with text only messages which are supplemented by the use of standard colours and shapes eg. Fire Exit signs
Wherever possible, picture signs (pictograms) should be used.
The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 came into force on April 1, 1996, and relate to the use of fire safety signage in the workplace.
The regulations apply to all places and activities where people are employed and require employers to provide specific safety signage whenever there is a risk that has not been avoided or controlled by other means.
The fire safety signage Regulations state that
- Employers must use safety signs wherever there is a risk to health and safety which cannot be controlled by other means
- Safety signs must be of a specified type
- All signs must contain a pictogram; text only signs are no longer acceptable
- Signs must be properly maintained and adequately lit
- Employers must ensure that signs are understood by employees