The new ISO 20712 standard answers the need to standardize a system for giving safety information related to aquatic activity that relies as little as possible on the use of words to achieve understanding. Continued growth in international trade, travel and mobility requires a common method of communicating safety information at an international level and lack of standardization may lead to confusion and possible injury and death.

ISO 20712 answers this need for an internationally harmonized approach. The standard, which was developed in close collaboration with the International Life Saving Federation (ILS) and other experts in the field, consists of three parts:

ISO 20712-1:2008, Water safety signs and beach safety flags – Specifications for water safety signs used in workplaces and public areas, is intended for use by owners and operators of aquatic environments and by manufacturers of signs and equipment. It categorizes water safety signs according to their function:

  • means of escape and emergency equipment signs
  • mandatory action signs
  • prohibition signs
  • warning signs.

The shape and colour required for safety signs, together with the corresponding graphical symbols, are given as prescribed by ISO 3864-1 and ISO 3864-3, respectively the standards on design principles for safety signs and design principles for graphical symbols for use in safety signs.

ISO 20712-2:2007, Water safety signs and beach safety flags – Specifications for beach safety flags – Colour, shape, meaning and performance, specifies requirements for the shape and colour of beach safety flags for the management of activities on coastal and inland beaches, to be used for giving information on wind and water conditions and other hazardous conditions, and to indicate the location of swimming and other aquatic activity zones extending from the beach into the water and when lifeguards are on duty.

ISO 20712-3, Water safety signs and beach safety flags – Guidance for use reflects good practice in the use of water safety signs and beach safety flags. The illustrations show examples of the selection and location of water safety signs and beach safety flags designed to provide information about aquatic hazards and the action necessary to avoid those hazards. It also has a section covering the need for signs in tsunami hazard areas. This third part will be published in the coming months.

ISO 20712-1:2008 and ISO 20712-2:2007 were developed by ISO technical committee 145, Graphical symbols, subcommittee 2, Safety identification, signs, shapes, symbols and colour. The publications cost respectively 154 and 56 Swiss francs and are available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing & Communication department (see right-hand column).