Laboratory Emergency Signage

Laboratory Signage

As a stronger emphasis is being placed on laboratory safety during the permitting process in and around the City of Boston, questions frequently arise regarding the types and locations of signage required within the laboratory space. The following sections highlight the general types of signage required within research and development laboratories from the perspectives of 780 CMR and 527 CMR 1.00.

NFPA 704 Signage

NFPA 704 signage is intended to quickly and clearly communicate chemical hazards to emergency responders. The NFPA 704 placard is a multicolored diamond with numerals to indicate the health, flammability, instability, and special hazards presented by chemicals.

527 CMR requires NFPA 704 signage to be placed on stationary aboveground tanks, stationary aboveground containers, at entrances to locations where hazardous materials are stored, dispensed, used, or handled in quantities requiring a permit, and at other entrances and locations designated by the AHJ (527 CMR

For R&D laboratories, this means NFPA 704 signage is required at all laboratory entry points, including the main laboratory entrance and any entrances to individual rooms within the laboratory space. In addition, NFPA 704 signage is required at any entry points to support spaces where chemical hazards are present (e.g. chemical storage rooms, waste rooms, gas storage rooms etc.).

There are also cases where the AHJ may request additional signage beyond that discussed above. For example, in the case where multiple tenants share a dedicated chemical storage room and have each been allocated a caged area within the room, certain jurisdictions may require tenant-specific NFPA 704 signage to be placed near each tenant’s storage area in addition to signage at the main door to the room.

In all cases, the NFPA 704 signage must accurately reflect the contents of the entire laboratory or storage area served and continued effort must be made to ensure signage is kept current to reflect the hazards present within the space.

Emergency Signage

Signage identifying locations of emergency equipment including fire extinguishers and eye wash/shower stations is intended to make the locations of such equipment easily identifiable for laboratory occupants. For fire extinguishers, NFPA 10 as referenced by 527 CMR requires that signage indicating the presence of an extinguisher be located in close proximity to the extinguisher and visible from the normal path of travel (NFPA 10, For emergency eye wash/shower stations, ANSI Z358.1 as referenced by 527 CMR requires a well-lit sign that is highly visible from within the area served by the emergency eye wash/shower (ANSI Z358.1, 4.5.3 & 5.4.3).

Aside from being affixed properly in the location of the extinguisher or eye wash/shower station, the style of signage that is typically recommended for laboratory applications is the projecting type, which extends perpendicularly or in a V-shape off the wall such that it can be viewed from multiple angles. Further, contrasting colors are typically utilized to enhance visibility, such as red and white for fire extinguishers and green and white for safety showers.

Locations of potential obstructions should be considered when locating emergency signage. Fire extinguisher and emergency wash station signage is often easily obstructed by laboratory equipment such as freezers, refrigerators, or glassware storage. Signage locations may therefore need to be adjusted to avoid obstructions and maintain visibility by laboratory personnel.

Spill Kit Signage

Spill kit signage is intended to clearly identify the locations and types of spill kits for laboratory occupants in the event of a chemical or biological spill. Where provided, it is recommended that chemical and biological spill kits be located in separate, distinct locations from one another. Often times they are located in labelled cabinets under lab sinks or in storage adjacent to emergency eye wash/shower stations. Wherever the spill kits are stored, easily identifiable markings are required to be installed to identify the spill kit and denote whether it is for biological or chemical spills.

If you have any questions or would like assistance with fire and life safety code compliance relative to laboratories, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Application of any information provided, for any use, is at the reader’s risk and without liability to Code Red Consultants. Code Red Consultants does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in this blog as applicable codes and standards change over time. The application, enforcement and interpretation of codes and standards may vary between Authorities Having Jurisdiction and for this reason, registered design professionals should be consulted to determine the appropriate application of codes and standards to a specific scope of work.