Ensuring fire alarm call point signs are positioned correctly
One of the UK’s largest selling safety signs is the fire alarm call point sign. It is also the health and safety sign that is most frequently installed incorrectly! Today’s article considers why this fire equipment sign is required and where it should be installed.
Essentially, the sign shown is there to help people locate where the fire alarm call point is. It is commonly used in the UK because the Guidance notes that accompanied the introduction of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 states that is must be used to identify every fire alarm call point within a building.
Unfortunately, most installers of this fire sign make the mistake of placing it within a few inches of the call point itself. In the opinion of this author at least this does not serve any purpose. After all, if a temporary obstruction like a delivery of boxes or, more commonly, a person is positioned in front of the call point then this obstruction will also be covering the call point sign itself.
Accordingly to the British Standard BS5499 this sign should actually be positioned 1.7 to 2m off the ground. In old money that is 5’6” to 6’5” in height. As the average height of an adult male in the UK is believed to be 5’9” it may well be prudent to install the sign higher than this marker. In fact, it may make sense to install this fire sign so the top of the sign is at the highest point of the BS scale, some 2 metres off the ground.
Although the symbol only fire alarm call point sign above is the one shown in the guidance notes of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations, in 2004 a survey highlighted that only 16% of people actually understand what this sign means when it is displayed in isolation. This almost unbelievably low statistic alone suggests that the fire sign we should be using is the one that also shows text like “Call Point” or “Fire alarm call point”.
As the distance between the sign and the call point can be a much a metre, the installer may also wish to consider the sign shown below that uses an arrow to help people easily locate the call point as soon as they see the sign.
When it comes to fire alarm call points, anecdotal research suggests that some potential evacuees are fearful of breaking the glass and cutting themselves. Although a high number of alarm call points do not actually use glass and the ones that do have a film over them to ensure no harm can befall the person raising the alarm, this fear still exists. After all, in day to day normality most people ignore call points and in reality, how often will any non-fire / health and safety members of staff ever have cause to push the fire alarm call point? With this in mind, another sign that sells well is the one shown below:
Whilst this sign does not completely quash any fear that a potential operator of the call point may have, it does say that it is okay to break the glass without delay.
Finally, when selecting fire alarm call point signs, consider the viewing distance. The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations states this sign should be “sufficiently large”. If the call point sign is positioned in a corridor or office, it rarely needs to be larger than 100mm x 100mm in size. However, if the call point is in a large open plan factory positioned 20m away, it should be far larger to ensure the call point’s location can be observed and noted at a glance, without the panicking member of staff or visitor having to go looking for it.
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