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One of the major uses of photoluminescent material is for safety and egress marking. It is most commonly seen in the form of "fire exit" signage. The industry is governed by a number of international standards and guidelines that stipulate performance criteria under certain conditions of excitement.

Floor path marking systems, also referred to as exit path marking, were initially conceived as a means to enable egress when smoke from a fire obscures overhead lighting and exit signs.

It is further be used to make critical elements of the means of egress, such as stair treads, landings, doors and handrails visible in the dark. Requirements for the installation of non-electrical floor path marking systems have spread from ships to aircraft to trains, and to buildings.

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Madrid Underground - Safety escape directional access
A short You Tube video highlighting the Madrid underground project.


  • 1980s - Electrically powered pathway marking required on commercial aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
  • 1984 - Haunted House fire at Great Adventure Amusement Park kills eight. The Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) is subsequently modified to require directional exit marking in special amusement buildings.
  • 1990 - Scandinavian Star cruise ship fire kills 158. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) passes a law in 1993 requiring floor path marking systems on all cruise ships and ferries by October 1997.
  • 1993 - Bombing of World Trade Center kills six and injures more than 1,000. The bomb knocks out normal and emergency lighting, greatly complicating egress. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey subsequently installs photoluminescent floor path marking in the stairs.
  • 1997 - With the emergence of a brighter pigment, the FAA allows the use of photoluminescent floor path marking in addition to electrically powered systems on commercial aircraft.
  • 1999 - Following a deadly train wreck, the American Public Transit Association releases guidelines for installing floor path marking on commuter trains by 2006.
  • 2000 - NFPA 101 is modified to include the use of photoluminescent exit signs.
  • 2001 - September 11th attacks result in collapse of World Trade Center towers. Survivors report that the photoluminescent floor path marking assisted them in their escape. In the Pentagon, occupants report difficulty in escaping after Flight 77 slammed into the building.
    Reconstruction of the Pentagon includes the addition of photoluminescent floor path marking in corridors and stairwells.



The PSPA (Photoluminescent Safety Products Association) is an association that, amongst other activities, recommends acceptable levels of performance for photoluminescent material in the industry.

The PSPA defines their class standards in accordance with the methodology set out in the commonly used standard of DIN 67510 pt 1 and ISO 17398 whereby luminance is measured following a specific level of excitation and then calculation made to the threshold of visibility which is 0.32mcd/m2.

It is the current recommendation of the PSPA that PSPA class A luminance be achieved as a minimum. More recent recommendations and new standards indicate that class B performance should be the minimum acceptable level and the recent Fire Regulatory Reform Act re-enforces this. Furthermore, it is worth noting that for some time now the PSPA have been discussing their own current recommendation and it is now decided that class A will be phased out and the minimum recommendation is to be PSPA class B for all applications.

The industry has spent a lot of time discussing standards in the recent past and many existing standards are part way through a review period. There are also other international standards which require specific performance, some being required at differing levels of excitation. Of particular note at the moment is the ISO 23601 Safety Identification - Escape Plan Signs which actually specifies a PSPA class C material as being the required photometric performance level.

PSPA Performance classification when tested according to DIN67510 pt 1

Figures in MilliCandella per Square Metre unless specified

2 mins 10 mins 30 mins 60 mins
to .032
PSPA Class A
> 450 mins
PSPA Class B
> 900 mins 
PSPA Class C
> 1800 mins
PSPA Class D
> 2000 mins

Tick1Dalux basic Regulation range exceeds PSPA Class B

Some of the other standards that may be relevant are listed below:

  • BS ISO 17398 - Safety colours and safety signs - Classification, performance and durability of safety signs.
  • BS ISO 16069 - Graphical symbols - Safety signs - Safety way guidance systems (SWGS)
  • DIN 67 510 Part 4 - The Internationally recognised German standard for the luminance performance requirements for photoluminescent materials
  • DIN 67 510 Part 1 - Definitions of test methods for luminance performance.
  • IMO resolution 752(18) - Guidelines for the evaluation, testing and application of low location lighting on ships
  • Photoluminescent Safety Products Association / Photoluminescent Safety Association guide to the use of photoluminescent egress marking in stairwells
  • New York City Local Law 26