Danny Adamson from Stocksigns Ltd discusses some of the new regulations regarding wayfinding signage following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and the implementation of The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022
On the 15th June 2017, just one day after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, Prime Minister Theresa May launched an inquiry tasked with discovering the truth behind the cause and exacerbation of the fire that claimed the lives of 72 residents. The Grenfell Tower Inquiry is, at time of writing, still yet to publish its final report, but a lot has already changed due to its findings.
Findings and regulations
During the inquiry, it was found that the staircase landings in the tower were not clearly marked, nor did they accurately reflect the additional floors created when the tower was refurbished. As a result, firefighters could not identify the floor numbers, which hindered their ability to control the fire and rescue residents. What signage did exist was also difficult to read in the smoky conditions of the fire. As a result, Recommendation 33.27 suggested that all high-rise buildings be fitted with clear wayfinding signage that can be read in all conditions.
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 went further than this, establishing the need for wayfinding signage as a legal requirement in all existing multiple occupancy residential buildings with a roof height over 11 m. These regulations came into force in January 2023. In addition to the floor number, the regulations also stipulate that signage must be used for the “identification of domestic premises”, such as denoting flat numbers and the flats numbers found on a certain corridor.
This comes into force alongside existing legislation that legally requires all new high-rise buildings to have the aforementioned wayfinding signage. The Government’s fact sheet on the regulations also underscores that, under Section 17 the Fire Safety Order 2005, it is the responsibility of the owner or manager of the building to maintain any and all signage so that it can perform its safety function. With the case of Grenfell Tower in mind, maintaining the signage would have meant updating and replacing all signs throughout the building following its refurbishment.
The companion fact sheet also suggests that, while there is no legal mandate to do so, ‘responsible persons’ may wish to consider installing signage in all types of buildings – high-rise or otherwise – in order to protect residents.
Signage design and location
In addition to requiring signage, Regulation 8 of The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 also states that all signage should conform to paragraphs 15.13 to 15.16 of Approved Document B Volume 1.
In the document, it is required that all wayfinding signs should be located at the top of every landing of a protected stairway (a stair that leads to a final exit with fire-resistant construction) and be visible from the top of a firefighting stair. Signs should be mounted between 1.7 m and 2 m from the floor, and if possible, this should be consistent across all floors of the building.
Approved Document B Volume 1 also specifies that the font be sans serif in order to make it easy to read. To this end, the minimum height of letters must be 50 mm and floor number should be at least 75 mm. The colour and design of the signage is not stipulated; however, it does require contrasting colours to be used for the text and the background. Consultation with a signage expert, such as Stocksigns, is advisable here as they will be able to direct you towards suitable options, such as photoluminescent signage, that will allow the signs to be read in low light or with a torch.
While Grenfell Tower had flats that opened directly onto a single lobby, the approved document also dictates the need for – and requirements of – signage in a building with multiple corridors. If you manage a building such as this, you will also need to provide regulation signage that clearly signposts which flat numbers can be found down which corridor.
The importance of clear and consistent safety signage cannot be denied. Whether you are looking at retrofitting existing buildings or implementing a scheme for a new development, with the help of an experienced supplier you will be able to find a compliant and consistent signage solution that enhances safety for residents.
Danny Adamson is managing director of Stocksigns Ltd