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March 31, 2015

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International standards for safety signs: ISO 7010

pic3Signs are an important part of health and safety in and around the workplace. However, the standard BS EN ISO 7010 for safety signs is still relatively new and many questions about it need to be clarified.

What is ISO 7010?

The ISO 7010 is an international standard for consistent safety sign regulation across Europe.

“ISO 7010:2011 prescribes safety signs for the purposes of accident prevention, fire protection, health hazard information and emergency evacuation. The shape and colour of each safety sign are according to ISO 3864-1 and the design of the graphical symbols is according to ISO 3864-3.”

The International Organisation for Standardisation (

When was this regulation implemented?

ISO 7010 was first introduced in 2003 as a mere ‘best practice’ recommendation and was updated in 2011. Similar to the GHS/CLP (Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals) adjustment, ISO 7010 makes an effort to achieve a global harmonisation system for the respective signs and signals.

BS EN ISO 7010:2012 was adopted in the UK in 2012 in an effort to attain consistency of design for safety signs throughout Europe.

Why do we need international standards for safety signs?

With the advancing globaliaation, a lack of standardisation can lead to confusion and elevate the risk of accidents. The goal of this standard is the harmonisation of signage throughout the EU by using the same design in the UK, Germany and any other EU country, hence minimising the risk of potentially dangerous situations and to provide a standardised, easy-to-comprehend safety message.

Given the massive migration of people within the EU and the uncomplicated international transportation between countries within the EU, this objective regarding health and safety provision makes perfect sense, economically speaking. If nothing else, it minimises the bothersome paperwork in case of an accident by preventing it from happening in the first place.

What legislation needs to be followed?

When ISO 7010 was first introduced in 2003, the UK, for the most part, continued to abide by its own standard, the BS 5499. Ten years later, in 2013, ISO 7010 became a European Normative (EN) and was adopted by European Law. As a result, EN ISO 7010 had to be adopted by all member states by January 2013.

The British Standards Institution have now published the UK version as BS EN ISO 7010, consigning BS 5499 obsolete. The responsible person, as defined in the Regulatory Reform Order (RRO) and under health and safety legislation, has a duty to ensure safety signs are compliant with best practice i.e. BS EN ISO 7010. They are required by law to identify hazards and mark the location of emergency equipment, means of escape, and safety appliances with appropriate signs.

How are ISO 7010 symbols designed?

There are specific requirements regarding the shape, composition and colour of safety signs.

Any sign must contain a symbol or pictogram to clearly convey its message, independent of the written word(s).


Type of SignShapeGroupDesignPictogram

Actions/Equipment which are prohibited

CircularPBlack pictogram on white background with red border and diagonal line. pic1

These signs give warning of potential risks

TriangularWBlack pictogram on yellow background with black border.pic2

A course of action which must be taken

CircularMWhite pictogram on blue background.pic3
Escape routes and safety equipmentRectangular or SquareEWhite pictogram on green background.pic4
Fire Equipment

Location of fire fighting equipment

SquareFWhite pictogram on red background. pic5

Why is there no text on ISO 7010 signs?

Since more and more people live and/or work in countries in which the official language may not be their native tongue, a more common and understandable method of relaying important safety messages is more important than ever before.

Text signs could be unclear for children, illiterate persons or for persons who do not speak the language used on the sign. The German word for Emergency Exit is ‘Notausgang’ and could, for example, be misinterpreted by an English speaking person as ‘Not-Ausgang’ meaning ‘No Exit’. To avoid such misinterpretations, using text is avoided altogether.

How does the ISO 3864 relate to ISO 7010?

ISO 7010 references ISO 3864 for the following:

  • Safety identification colours
  • Design principles for safety signs and safety markings
  • Applicable in workplaces and in public areas for the purpose of accident prevention, fire protection, health hazard information and emergency evacuation.

ISO 3864 furthermore establishes the basic principles to be applied when developing standards containing safety signs. ISO 3864-1:2011 is applicable to all locations where safety issues concerning people need to be addressed.

Do signs need to be upgraded?

Currently, you are under no legal obligation to change your signs. For the time being, you can keep your old signs according to the previous BS 5499. However, considering the functionality and practicability of the new signs, you may want to consider upgrading your signs to the new regulations immediately.

When looking to purchase new signs, it is advisable to ensure they meet the new EN 7010. It will be hard not to, anyway, as most of the sign manufacturers no longer produce the non-compliant BS5499 versions.

 Are mixed symbols allowed?

It is highly recommended by Health and Safety Guidance that the two different types of signs, BS 5499 and EN 7010, should not be mixed in the workplace. If you wish to use signs in accordance with best practice, it is best not to mix symbols from old and new standards. Particularly in critical situations, signs marking fire escape routes, for example, can save lives. In this scenario, ambiguous signs can lead to confusion and cost lives.

Labelident-logoLabelident is a German-based expert for adhesive safety signs, labels and label printing. Labelident offers EU-wide services and delivery.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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