Safety Signage – What direction to take?
26 March, 2014
We are all familiar with different types of signage, if we think about it our daily lives are governed by signage of one sort or another: road traffic signs, advertising signage as we watch or attend our favourite sport, directional signage when navigating our favourite store, signs prohibiting us from doing this or going there. Signage in all its different formats is so much part of our surroundings nowadays that we probably take it for granted and deal with it automatically as we go about our busy lives.
In our workplaces, where we can encounter the dangerous and un-expected, the need for clear and unambiguous signage is a given, as well as a legal requirement. Signage in workplaces is the last line of defence against hazards and should only be relied upon where hazards cannot be adequately reduced or mitigated. A risk assessment process should be used to identify the requirements and details of signage to be used.
Where hazards exist in the workplace, employees must be provided with information and instructions on measures to be taken and the meaning of signage in use in the workplace. The effectiveness of a sign must not be adversely affected by poor design, insufficient numbers of signs, incorrect positioning or poor state of repair.
When it comes to the evacuation of people from buildings, whether it is a workplace or a building used by both the public and employees, adequate and sufficient signage should be in place to assist with a safe evacuation from that building in an emergency.
Example Photoluminescent safety sign system for evacuation routes
In accordance with BS ISO 16069 the Safety Way Guidance System (SWGS) is a complete sign system that is comprised of three signage levels.
(A) Photoluminescent signage system positioned at the High Location Level (1.8m and above). This ensures visibility and recognition of the evacuation routes and fire-fighting equipment at the mid-long range viewing distances for occupants.
(B) Photoluminescent signage system positioned at the Intermediate Location Level (1.2m – 1.6m), Provides instructions and/or complimentary information for occupants.
(C) Photoluminescent signage system positioned at the Low Location Level (to a maximum installation height of 400 mm), Ensures visibility and recognition of the evacuation routes and fire- fighting equipment at low/floor level.
Photoluminescent signage absorbs light under normal day to day operating conditions and gives back that light under low light or no light conditions. The best Photoluminescent properties are achieved when a sign is installed as close to a light source as possible and/or receiving direct light as a preference; this will ensure that the sign remains visible in the absence of light.
Many people think that Photoluminescent safety signs are only for marking the exit door on escape paths, however this type of signage can provide complete directional information along the escape path at high and low locations alongside pathway guidance provided by low location lighting systems.
Such systems have been installed in multi-storey, multi-occupancy buildings where factors such as high occupancy densities, increased evacuation times, dense smoke or dust levels, increased and heightened panic levels and limited opportunity for external intervention. All of these raise serious problems for evacuation and safety, especially as these areas are the key escape routes from a multi-storey, multi-occupancy building and are the areas of a building where occupants will congregate.
Low level lighting systems as developed by companies such as Everlux are specifically designed to provide consistent information along the escape route and to ensure that the occupants act in a correct and safe manner, thereby reducing confusion, panic and loss of life in an emergency evacuation.
While we sometimes take the signage we come across in our lives for granted, well designed and installed signage systems can save lives when the lights go out!