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Common emergency lighting mistakes

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Operating commercial premises can present many challenges. As well as providing and maintaining the comfort and welfare of the occupants who may be employees, students or patients, attention must be paid to health and safety. Peter Adams outlines some of the common mistakes and how to correct them. 

Unlike residential and private dwellings, buildings which are used for the intentions outlined above must comply with various regulations and legislation driven by government orders and the Health and Safety executive. Safety critical resources must be put in place such as fire detection warning and escape systems, sprinkler systems and emergency lighting.

Emergency lighting is lighting provided for use when the normal lighting fails in order that occupants can evacuate the building in a safe and orderly manner. Outlined below are some of the most common mistakes together with recommendations and advice on how to correct them to remain compliant.

Missing risk assessments
Risk assessments are a legal requirement for commercial premises and should be undertaken at design stage and regularly thereafter but more importantly at times of alteration to the fabric or structure, changes to the internal design such as partitions and other measures which may impact on the building layout.

Failure to carry out regular and efficient risk assessments can result in many long term problems, particularly when it comes to the emergency lighting scheme. Furthermore, failure to adhere to the right procedures and booking regular risk assessments may result in new requirements and legislation being missed.

Risk assessments should be completed by a ‘Competent Person’ who has received the proper training for assessing a building fully. If using external companies to carry out risk assessments on a consistent basis, they should be fully accredited and competent. Alternatively, the task can be assigned to an employee subject to adequate training being provided and undertaken. Documenting risk assessments is also a vital part of the process. Having solid evidence that these important appraisals have been completed allows them to be submitted to fire authorities or other appropriate legislative bodies when requested.

Failure to comply with legislation
Completion of the initial risk assessment will determine the emergency lighting requirement for the building. Upon the implementation of the emergency lighting, there are many factors governed by legislation which must be adhered to to deliver a compliant scheme. Failure to familiarise oneself fully with this legislation may result in the scheme being non-compliant. There are however several industry standards which are in place to help support the design and implementation process which the designer should be familiar with. As a starting point it is recommended that a copy of the emergency lighting code of practice, BS: EN 5266-1 is referred to. This lists all the various standards which provide the relevant recommendations and guidelines.

Failure to adhere to British Standards
These standards are not merely in place as ‘box tickers’ or to be used superficially. Together they form a definitive guide covering all aspects of emergency lighting including self-contained and central battery systems, standby lighting, and defined lux levels including high risk task areas as well as providing essential information on the placement of necessary signage. In addition to design and scheme standards there are others such as BS: EN 61347 series covering control gears and BS: EN 60598 pts 1 and 2 to cover luminaires. Compliance to these standards goes a long way to reassuring end users that they are using the very best equipment.

Not completing regular tests
Designing and implementing a compliant emergency lighting scheme shows a high level of diligence however this is only the start. In order to maintain on-going compliance, routine maintenance and testing is critical. Many companies and businesses choose to implement an automatic testing system, which enables tests to take place regularly, at periods of low risk and in accordance with the relevant standards. An automatic test system can be taken to the next level with the addition of a monitoring system which utilises a communication protocol such as DALI.
N-light is Mackwell’s proprietary test and monitoring system. Developed specifically for self-contained emergency lighting systems, N-lights intuitive touch-screen puts the user in full control. Tests are scheduled and any faults identified in accordance with BS: EN 50172 and BS: EN 62034. Incorporating an on-board log book which can be downloaded, N-light ensures the emergency lighting scheme remains compliant.

Testing and maintenance
It is easy to recognise the benefits an automatic test and monitoring system brings but it should not be a wholesale replacement for routine maintenance. The system will identify and diagnose faults but unless it is regularly monitored the faults will remain.

Peter Adams is support services manager at Mackwell. For detailed information on how to implement the correct system and advice on which emergency lighting system is most suitable for your premises, contact him on 01922 458 255.

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