It goes without saying that emergency lighting is an important and necessary component of any premises, but a major survey of emergency equipment installers has found that more than half of emergency light installations won’t work in an incident.
The survey, commissioned by fire detection manufacturer Hochiki Europe, found that 56 per cent of European businesses fail to update their safety systems following refurbishments in which internal areas are reorganized. Standards state that any change to an escape route requires a corresponding change to the lighting and a new risk assessment must be conducted before the refurbished area can be deemed fit for purpose.
The report also highlights building maintenance as an issue, building owners seeing emergency lighting as a ‘fit-and-forget’ solution. 55 per cent of respondents reported that building owners appear to be concerned with initial expenditure alone, rather than also considering on-going maintenance costs.
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 Steel 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.
In another case, the owner of a hotel on Blackpool’s promenade was imprisoned for 18 months for breaching the Fire Safety Order. Officers found blocked exit routes, disabled smoke alarms and there was no emergency lighting system.
So what do you need to know to ensure your emergency lighting scheme is compliant?
A risk assessment should be undertaken to identify which areas of your building require emergency lighting. The resulting scheme is likely to include a combination of different types of lighting and installations.
Those undertaking works on emergency lighting schemes must have achieved 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 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. Under the directive all signs were to be replaced by 24 December 1998 but we still regularly see non-compliant emergency signage within active schemes.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 became Law on the 1 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 building use and evacuation strategy dictates the battery back-up required for the emergency lighting system. Any building used as sleeping accommodation will require a minimum of three hours battery back-up. This includes hospitals, care homes, boarding schools and blocks of flats.
Maintenance of your scheme
Servicing and maintenance of emergency lighting systems must be carried out at regular intervals to ensure that the system is in a fully operational condition. This is likely to be performed within the periodic testing routine. In addition, spares for consumable items such as lamps must be available for immediate use.
The Electrical Contractors’ Association guidance states “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 must have a 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 the simulation of a full power cut to the lighting system on an annual basis. Please note however that full simulation tests should not exceed 66 per cent 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 get in touch with