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Emergency Lighting – The Why, The What And The Who

July 26, 2017 | Insights,

Emergency lighting is a requirement by law for all non-domestic premises and the common areas of Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs). When an emergency situation arises the mains power supply to a building may be cut and therefore normal lighting fails to provide direction to the nearest exit or life safety equipment (such as fire extinguishers, break glasses, distribution boards and fire alarm panels).

When the mains power to a building is cut the occupants may find themselves in sudden darkness which may lead to both physical danger and panic. An emergency light is a battery powered lighting device that switches on automatically when a building experiences a power outage. A series of emergency lights are therefore required to help the occupants of a building to remain safe whilst locating the nearest exit.

The British Standard for emergency lighting provides a designer with clear guidelines to work to. Although the Standard recommends the types and duration of emergency lighting systems for different categories of buildings, it’s worth noting that the standards dictate the minimum safety level required, and so a higher standard may be appropriate for particular buildings, for example, factories where a failure in the lighting could result in immediate danger.

What are the standards which govern emergency lighting?

Emergency lighting In Britain and Europe is now covered by a series of interdependent standards that can be seen as forming a hierarchy as shown below.

Base guidance document

‘BS 5266-1: 2011 Code of practice for emergency lighting of premises’ gives general rules and guidance on the provision and operation of emergency lighting in most premises other than dwelling houses.

System standards

  • ‘BS EN 1838:1999 / BS 5266-7:1999 Lighting applications – emergency lighting’ specifies the illumination required by an emergency lighting system (including luminance, duration and colour).
  • ‘BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004 Emergency escape lighting systems’ specifies the minimum provision and testing of emergency lighting for different premises.

Product standards

  • ‘BS EN 60598-1: 2008 Luminaires – general requirements and tests’ see the 60598 series for particular requirements.
  • ‘BS EN 62034:2006 Automatic test systems for battery powered emergency escape lighting’ specifies a test system for battery powered emergency lighting.
  • ‘BS EN 50171:2001 Central power supply systems’ specifies central power supply systems for emergency lighting luminaries.

For more information on all of the above visit your local reference library or purchase copies from BSI online.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO)

The HM Government entry level guides to the RRFSO for different types of non-domestic premises and the communal areas in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) each have a section entitled “Further guidance on emergency escape lighting”, which provide additional relevant information. The guides can be accessed here.

Who is responsible for ensuring a compliant emergency lighting system?

Building owner/managing agent

The legal basis of emergency lighting is essentially the same as that for fire regulations, in that the building owner/managing agent is the ‘responsible person’ as defined by the regulations. As such, they must ensure the correct provision and operation of the emergency lighting system including:

  • Appointing competent designers, installers, and maintainers.
  • Performing annual – and at significant change – risk assessments in line with the latest version of the emergency lighting standards as defined by BS5266.
  • Discharging his/her responsibilities under Fire Regulation Reform Order 2005.

Whilst the building owner/managing agent holds ultimate responsibility, there are several other roles to be considered, each with their own responsibilities to adhere to.

The designer

Must design the emergency lighting systems in accordance with the building owner/managing agents risk assessment using the emergency lighting standards and best practice documentation as a baseline to ensure safe escape from the building.

The installer

  • Must install the emergency lighting system in accordance with the designer’s documentation.
  • They must test and commission both photometrically and electrically (as necessary) the system.
  • They must provide ‘as fitted’ documentation to represent the actual installation.
  • Once the installation is complete they must handover the system to the maintainer.

The maintainer

  • Is responsible for the ongoing inspection, testing and maintenance of the system.
  • They must record information and maintain an emergency lighting log book.
  • They must keep up to date with all emergency lighting standards revisions, ensuring the system remains compliant.
  • They must conduct annual reviews of the system.

Facilities management teams

  • Must perform weekly fire-alarm tests and daily visual inspections of the emergency lighting before occupation of the building.
  • The above must be recorded in an emergency lighting log book.

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