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Safety in the dark

21 November 2013

A safety evacuation plan, supported by a regular evacuation drill, ensures you can get your employees out fast and safely if things go wrong. When an entire office building or production plant goes dark, highly visible safety signage, like photoluminescent signs and markers, increases your chances of getting everybody out without injuries.

When accurately placed, high quality photoluminescent signage will still glow to guide firemen through your site to combat disaster in the event of a blackout.

Choosing photolum classes
Photoluminescent materials are divided into classes, based on their brightness after 10 and 60 minutes in the dark. Class A is the basic photolum material, glowing 23 mcd/m² after 10 minutes and 3 mcd/m² after an hour. 

Photoluminescent classes offer a clear overview of the available quality you can order, depending on your needs. Bear in mind that many countries have set guidelines or norms regulating minimal luminance for photoluminescent safety signage. Suppliers can help you choose the photoluminescent class that best answers your needs.”

Safety Way Guidance System
Photoluminescent materials are mentioned in the ISO 16069, ANSI and DIN 67510 regulations aimed at standardising a Safety Way Guidance System throughout the world. ISO 16069 contains general principles valid both for electrically powered and for photoluminescent components. Special information related to the type of component is given to assist in defining the environment of use, choice of material, layout, installation and maintenance.”

In some cases, photoluminescent signage can be used in combination with electrically powered signage. Photoluminescent materials have the added advantage that they do not impose extra costs like inspection and maintenance.

Photoluminescent sign materials
Choosing the best material depends on the location where you want to attach the photoluminescent safety sign. Choices include:

Self Adhesive Polyester: This material is easy to apply and is fine for smaller sized safety signs. Self Adhesive Polyester does need a clean surface to smoothly attach the safety sign.
Rigid Polypropylene: Rigid Polypropylene is used in bigger safety signs, such as an emergency exit symbol in a tradeshow environment. It is mainly meant for indoor use. The standard material is not self adhesive, but can be attached to rougher surfaces using a well suited adhesive.
Aluminium: Aluminium is mainly used outdoors, and can also be very practical on magnetic panels or machinery.
Other materials, such as Self Adhesive Polypropylene, are also available. 

Best practice photoluminescent application

Well placed photoluminescent safety signage covers three heights in any hallway, production floor, open office or large area. 

Floor signage, like photoluminescent tape, shows your employees the way out in case of a smoke build up, or fire. It is attached to the floor or on the wall no higher than 40 cm. Floor signage will show your employees the quickest escape route, even if they have to bend down to avoid inhaling too much smoke. Brady recommends marking both sides of a hallway if it is wider than 2 metres. 

Intermediate height signage is placed between 1.2m and 1.5m. These signs contain more information, such as a plan showing the nearest fire extinguisher or stairwell, the direction in which doors open or a first aid kit location. These photoluminescent signs and shapes are placed at a convenient height for people to read.

High signage, placed higher than 1.8m, makes sure your employees can spot the nearest emergency exit from a distance. It also helps to stay calm and focused because high signage remains visible, even when hundreds of employees are making for the nearest exit at the same time.

Once these three heights are covered, focus on clearly marking obstacles, or clear escape aisles, with photoluminescent tape, shapes or accessories. These will help employees navigate stairwells in the dark, avoid meeting rooms, desks or pillars in the middle of the office, or machinery in the production area in the event of an evacuation, reducing injuries from falling or bumping into hard objects.

Shining safety stars
High quality photoluminescent safety signage can be used to mark obstacles or clear aisles for fast evacuation. High quality photoluminescent materials still glow bright enough after an hour in the dark to guide firemen through your facility after your employees are evacuated. Photoluminescent materials charge themselves through light exposure (the best charging source is daylight), and do not require inspection or maintenance. They will glow in the dark, and guide people out safely, even in case of a total blackout.
Dominique Roosen is product manager EMEA Safety & Facility Identification Solutions at Brady Corporation.