It goes without saying that emergency lighting is an important and necessary component of any premises, but a major survey of emergency lighting installations has found that more than half of emergency light schemes ‘won’t work’ in incident.
One of the major problems appears to arise as a consequence of internal refurbishments with 56 per cent of businesses failing to keep their safety systems up to date following fit-outs when areas are reorganised, but the emergency lighting is not altered to suit those changes.
Any change to a designated escape route requires a similar adjustment in the lighting of that route. Maintenance is also singled out as an issue. The survey suggests that building owners see emergency lighting as a fit-and-forget system, with 55 per cent of the survey respondents reporting that customers seem to be more concerned with initial expenditure rather than the on-going cost of running and maintaining the system.
Aside from the obvious safety of your tenants, property owners have found themselves fined and even imprisoned due to a lack of compliant emergency lighting. Tata Steelworks in Wales was fined £200k when the lights in their factory failed during an accident in which 300 tonnes of molten metal was spilled injuring a number of employees. Worst still, the owner of a hotel on Blackpool’s promenade was imprisoned for 18 months when it was discovered that exit routes were blocked, smoke alarms were disabled and there was no emergency lighting system whatsoever.
So what do you need to know to ensure your emergency lighting scheme is compliant?
A combination of different types of emergency lighting is likely to be needed in most buildings and a risk assessment should be carried out to identify the areas and locations which will require emergency lighting as well as the type of installations needed.
Anyone undertaking works on emergency lighting schemes should be in possession and have an understanding of the following standards:
- BS 5266-1:2016 Code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises.
- BS EN 60598-2-22 British and European standard for emergency luminaires.
- BS 5499-10:2014 Guidance for the selection and use of safety signs and fire safety notices.
It’s also worth noting that the regulations governing emergency lighting are periodically updated and so many of the schemes we see have not been maintained in accordance to the latest requirements.
The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, for example, enact in UK law an EU Directive designed to harmonise signs across the EU. The directive was for all signs to be replaced by 24th December 1998 but we still regularly see non-compliant emergency signage installed in active schemes.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 became Law on the 1st of October 2006 providing a minimum fire safety standard in all non-domestic premises. This order replaced all previous laws in England and Wales meaning that many schemes installed prior to 2005 are likely to be non-compliant.
Similarly, the code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises (BS 5266) was originally published in 2008, but was later amended in 2011 and again in 2016. The assumption, therefore, is that it’s entirely possible for installations which have not been upgraded or reviewed since these periods to be non-compliant with current requirements.
Summary of the key requirements
Whilst this is by no means an exhaustive list, we have summarised some of the key emergency lighting requirements below:
- Emergency luminaires, exit signage and infill lighting must be carefully positioned to provide sufficient lighting to enable safe exit from a building in the event of failure of the normal mains supply.
- Emergency exits and escape routes should be provided with signs. These should be illuminated to indicate unambiguously the route of escape to a point of safety.
- Where direct sight of an emergency exit is not possible, an illuminated directional sign (or series of signs) should be provided to assist progression towards the emergency exit.
- Every change of direction leading to an escape door needs to be illuminated.
- An escape lighting luminaire should be sited near (normally considered to be within 2m measured horizontally) to:
- each exit door
- positions where it is necessary to emphasise potential danger (such as changes of level, flights of stairs and intersections of corridors)
- first-aid equipment
- fire alarm call points
- fire extinguishers
- fire alarm panels and
- electrical distribution boards
- In addition to the above mandatory points, infill luminaires may be required to achieve the correct emergency lighting levels.
Duration of battery back-up
The battery back-up of an emergency lighting system will depend on the use of the building and the evacuation strategy. Any building used as sleeping accommodation will require a minimum of three hours of battery back-up. This therefore includes hospitals, care homes, boarding schools and common areas of blocks of flats.
Maintenance of your scheme
It is essential that servicing and maintenance of emergency lighting systems is carried out at regular intervals to ensure that the system remains in a fully operational condition. This would normally be performed as part of the periodic testing routine, but for consumable items, such as replacement lamps, spares should be provided for immediate use.
It is advisable to have in place a service and maintenance contract with a competent person or company, not only for routine inspection, but also for emergency repairs and alterations.
Testing your scheme
Every emergency lighting system will need to have a suitable means for simulating failure of the normal mains supply for testing and maintenance purposes. This is normally achieved by the use of key switches operated by the user/owner of the scheme. We recommend short functional (on-off) tests on a monthly basis and a full power cut to the lighting system simulation on an annual basis. Please note however that full simulation tests should not exceed 66% of the battery’s full duration.
There are significant cost and energy savings to be made through the installation of an energy efficient emergency lighting scheme. Through conducting detailed site surveys and analysis, we can identify where your lighting can be improved, put together a comprehensive business case, outlining the full cost and benefits to your business and the range of options available to you. For more information on energy efficient emergency lighting please contact us.