Why UK safety signs are moving away from BS5499 to the International Standard 7010
Although ISO 7010 has been with us - in one form or another - for six years (since 2004), only now is the UK taking it seriously. This is not because of a change of UK government or indeed a change of heart. This is because this ISO Standard (a document detailing perceived best international practice) is set to become a European Normative. Effectively this will make it a European Law – a law that the UK, as a member state, will have to adopt.
What this page will attempt to address is the what, why, when and where questions that go with any new piece of new legislation.
ISO 7010 lays out a series of symbols that should be displayed on the most commonly used safety signs. Whilst this list of symbols is not exhaustive it does cover most of the important messages, from fire exits to caution very hot water. When ISO 7010 becomes EN 7010, all safety signs sold in the UK should (in theory) be made to the specifications of this standard.
It seems the cliché of the world getting smaller all the time is borne out in travel statistics. Over the last twenty years, more and more people have worked or are working in countries that are not their birthplaces. This is particularly true with the freedom of movement now allowed around Europe.
ISO 7010 states that all countries should use the same symbol on their safety signs. The benefit of doing this is that if you are a non-English reading person now working on a building site in Manchester, you will understand the hard hat symbol even if you do not understand the text to the right of that symbol. Likewise, an English construction worker working in Madrid will understand the same message.
The author, like almost everyone else in the UK, is a little vague on this. Our best guess is that ISO 7010 will become a Pr EN 7010 in the autumn of 2010. This means it will be a ‘provisional’ EN standard. However, policy makers and influencers are currently suggesting that it will not remain a provisional standard for long, with the formal introduction of this EN standard following suit imminently…
When it does become a European Normative, any UK company or organisation buying signs should ensure their signs are compliant with the symbols outlined in ISO/EN 7010. In terms of signs already in buildings, we fully expect there to a period to grace for workplaces to upgrade their signs. If this is anything like the fairly recent introduction of the new health and safety law poster, this period of grace could be anything up to five years.
Regardless of the period of grace given, EN 7010 is definitely coming and is here to stay. To stay ahead on the developments and implications of EN 7010, please get your signage off us so that you can be sure of having only EN 7010 compliant signage.
ISO 7010 / EN 7010 Frequently Asked Questions
Are your fire exit signs compliant with the new EN 7010?
In 1998, off the back of EC Directive 92/58/EEC, the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 required every UK business to upgrade their “text only” fire exit and exit signs to ones displaying a fast-walking man (or running man as it is more commonly known). From that day to this, the running man used could either be the BS5499 style or the Eurostyle format.
| British Standard Signage
|| Euro Style Signage
|| HTM 65 Signage|
Further to this, the now defunct Hospital Technical Memorandum 65 stated that comprehension levels of the British Standard sign could be further improved by adding some licking flames to the design. As such, the following sign was created, only adding to the confusion about which sign to use.
Because of the above, some large organisations in the UK can have as many as three different styles of fire exit signs within the same building. Contrary to what many might expect, it is not only hospitals that have been seen to use all three styles of signs. As we have seen from first-hand experience, many buyers / Health and Safety Officers feel the HTM 65 sign does indeed mean more to a panicking or non-English-reading evacuee, and choose this sign over the other two.
As things stand today, buildings with a mix of sign (particularly the BS5499 and Eurostyle sign) are in breach of British Standard 5499 part 4. The amendment to this Standard, which came out in 2000, clearly states that buildings cannot mix fire exit sign designs. This is for the reason that, in the panic situation of a fire alarm sounding, an evacuee could start following British Standard fire exit signs only to be confronted by the Eurostyle running man half way along the escape route. It is at this point that he or she could potentially pause, thus delaying their escape from the building.
The knock-on effect of a ponderous evacuee can be significant. In much the same way that a slowing driver who is “rubber necking” at an accident on the other side of the motorway can cause congestion and delay for those behind him, the same is true with many people evacuating a building. Other evacuees will in turn be delayed.
However, it is important to note that being in breach of a British Standard is nothing more than being in breach of industry best practice. This is in no way as serious as being in breach of legislation. However in late 2010 / early 2011 these same buildings with mixed fire exits will be indeed be breaking the law.
This is because European Standard ISO 7010 is set to become a European Normative or Law - A law that the UK, as a member state, must adopt.
ISO 7010 itself currently endorses the good practice laid out in BS5499 part 4. It recommends the use of the BS5499 style fast walking man (with a slight tweak to the shape of his foot) over the Eurostyle sign detailed above.
Although the details of how and when ISO 7010 will be converted into EN 7010 are still a little vague at present, we do know that once 7010 is law, the old Eurostyle sign will no longer be acceptable within UK workplaces. As we understand it, at this point all our customers will need to comply by upgrading both their signs and emergency lighting units.
Will I need to upgrade my old signs to comply with the new 7010 standard?
At this stage, we believe you will not have to upgrade all of your signs immediately (perhaps with the exception of the Eurostyle fire exit signs). Although much of this depends on how the UK government enforces this law, we feel it is extremely unlikely that they will ask businesses to remove perfectly good BS5499 style safety signs at great expense. At the very least businesses will get a period of grace of up to five years, much the same as we have seen with the recent change to the Health and Safety Law poster.
However, we do feel that the government will look at the Eurostyle fire exit sign. This is because a mixture within the same building of the 7010 style exit sign (virtually the same as the British Standard style sign) and the Eurostyle sign could lead to potentially fatal consequences. It is for these reasons that we have decided to no longer sell the Eurostyle sign and strongly advise all of our customers to buy the “open door” style fire exit signage.