Emergency lighting – the components of a compliant scheme

If you have read our first blog (Emergency lighting – the why, the what and the who) you will understand the importance of emergency lighting. This follow on blog goes one step further to provide an overview of the main components of a compliant emergency lighting system including risk assessments, lighting units, signage, commissioning certificates, logbooks and maintenance.

Risk assessments

The purpose of a risk assessment is to identify the risk to people entering a premises and document a safe means of escape for all people including those with disabilities and visual impairments. Failure to document a fire risk assessment that includes emergency lighting can lead to series legal repercussions. It is also necessary to keep accurate records of issues, including the date of identification and when those issues were rectified. It’s important to remember that fire authorities can request access to a buildings risk assessments at any time.

Emergency lighting and signage

Emergency lighting is a general term and is sub-divided into emergency escape lighting and standby lighting.

Emergency escape lighting

This is the emergency lighting system that provides illumination for the safety of people leaving a location or attempting to terminate a potentially dangerous situation beforehand. Emergency escape lighting is further sub-divided into escape route lighting, open area lighting and high risk task area lighting.

Escape route lighting

The part of an emergency escape lighting system designed to ensure that the means of escape can be effectively identified and safely used by occupants of the building.

Open area lighting

The part of an emergency escape lighting system designed to minimise panic and ensure there is sufficient illumination to allow the occupants of a building to reach a place where an escape route can be identified.

High risk task area lighting

The part of an emergency escape lighting system designed to provide illumination for the safety of people involved in a potentially dangerous situation to enable proper shut-down procedures for the safety of the operator and other occupants of the premises.

Standby lighting

The part of an emergency lighting system designed to enable normal activities to continue substantially unchanged. This guide does not include further information on standby lighting as it is not a legal requirement.

Siting of luminaires and emergency signs

Once you have designed your emergency lighting system, consideration should be given to the siting of the lighting units (luminaires) and signs. Lighting units and signs should be sited so as to clearly show the exit routes leading to the final exits from the premises. Where the exit route or final exit is not readily identifiable, a sign should be utilised rather than a lighting unit. Particular attention should be paid to:

  • stairways
  • changes in floor level
  • corridor intersections
  • changes in direction
  • the outside of each final exit
  • control / plant rooms
  • lifts
  • toilet areas over 8m2 (although there is an argument for providing all toilets with public access, and especially those for the disabled, with emergency lighting)
  • fire alarm call points and firefighting equipment.

Please note that detailed computer point calculations or luminaire manufacturer’s spacing tables should be used for specifying the location of luminaires and signs. The above is a brief summary only and we recommend that the appropriate Standard is referred to in order to gain a full understanding of the requirements.

Commissioning certificate and logbook

Emergency lighting regulations BS 5266 and the European Standard both require written declarations of compliance to be available on site for inspection. These should detail the quality of the installation and its conformance with IEE wiring regulations, including the main circuit of the normal lighting system feeding non-maintained fittings.

Upon completion of the installation of the emergency lighting system, or part thereof, a completion certificate should be supplied by the installer to the occupier/owner of the premises.

A declaration of satisfactory test of operation is necessary and a log of all system tests and results must be maintained. System logbooks, with commissioning forms, testing forms and instructions, should be provided by the installer.


Monthly emergency lighting tests

All emergency lighting systems must be tested monthly. The test is a short functional test in accordance with BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004.

The period of simulated failure should be sufficient for the purpose of this test while minimising damage to the system components. During this period, all luminaires and signs shall be checked to ensure that they are present, clean and functioning correctly.

Annual emergency lighting tests

A test for the full rated duration of the emergency lights (three hours) must be carried out annually. The building cannot be occupied whilst the test is taking place and it must remain unoccupied until the batteries have recharged to full capacity after the test has concluded. For the annual test to have passed, all emergency lights must still be fully operational at the end of the three hour test period.
The result must be recorded and, if failures are detected, these must be remedied as soon as possible.

Emergency lighting key requirements checklist

  • Ensure you have completed a fire risk assessment which includes the provision of emergency lighting. This needs to be completed annually or upon change of layout/use of area.
  • Appoint a competent designer to complete the emergency lighting design in accordance with relevant standards and best practice documents.
  • Ensure a building log book is on site and compiled with the relevant information to include
    • Photometric data and design files
    • Electrical installation test certification
    • Emergency lighting completion certificate
  • Ensure monthly emergency lighting tests are taking place
  • Ensure three hour annual emergency lighting tests are taking place.

For more information on emergency lighting or to speak to one of our expert team please contact Sustain.

This blog originally appeared on the Sustain website.

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