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Zumtobel Lighting UK’s Graeme Shaw discusses emergency lighting regulations and what the minimum requirements are.

Emergency lighting is a legal obligation that should never be compromised. The importance of emergency lighting in the event of a power failure cannot be understated and it can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Without light, even a familiar environment immediately becomes more dangerous and more frightening, so it is essential not only that the emergency lighting comes on when needed but also stays on for the required duration. 

UK fire safety legislation states that people in a building must be able to find their way to a place of total safety if there is a fire by using escape routes that have enough lighting. Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.

Owners or occupiers of all premises in which people are employed must, by law, carry out fire precautions risk assessments. If you employ five or more persons, whether or not they are at work at any one time, or at separate workplaces, there is a legal requirement to make a record of significant findings of the risk assessment and measures proposed to deal with them. 

A formal record must be kept of all significant findings together with details of measures taken to deal with the risks identified. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places the onus on a designated ‘responsible person’ within an organisation to carry out assessments to identify, manage and reduce risk, and put appropriate measures in place. However, there is still a lack of awareness of the risks around not dealing with emergency lighting correctly. 

Types of emergency lighting

Emergency escape lighting – this provides illumination for those trying to leave the location. It is an important part of the fire and safety provision of a building and requirement of ‘Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005’.

Escape route lighting – this ensures all means of escape can be identified and safely used by occupants of the building.

Open area lighting – this allows sufficient illumination to guide occupants to reach part of the building where an escape route can be found.

Legislation should be adhered to in order to identify a building’s specific emergency lighting requirements. The Workplace Directive 89/654 states that signs, in accordance with national regulation, must indicate specific routes and exits. Additionally, The Construction Products Directive 89/106/EEC says that the purpose of an emergency lighting installation is to ensure that lighting is provided promptly, automatically and for a suitable time in a specific area when normal power supply to the lighting fails. 

This is all encapsulated in BS 5266-1, Code of Practice for the emergency lighting of premises. BS 5266-1 provides information on the correct lighting provision for the safety of people and provides facilities managers with information regarding minimum levels of illumination, duration of operation and the maximum brightness levels needed to prevent glare. When persons have designed, installed, commissioned and maintained systems in-line with the standard, they can be confident they have a properly designed scheme.

Innovating safety

There have been significant advancements in the technology deployed in emergency lighting systems in recent years, with the result that they now offer a level of intelligence that combines high levels of reliability and ease of use. Furthermore, light emitting diode (LED) luminaires offer significant additional benefits in terms of size, lifetime and energy efficiency. LED luminaires offer some impressive features and 3W fittings are available that run at 700mA and come in standard format three-hour duration.

Smaller emergency luminaires also have less visual impact on the space and make it easier for the lighting designer to address sensitive aesthetic requirements. The ideal situation is that the emergency lighting is only noticed when it is required – namely, when in emergency operation. And this applies to both conversions and stand-alone emergency luminaires.

Staying compliant

In order to comply with BS 5266-1, all emergency lighting systems must undergo a short duration test on a monthly basis and an additional annual test for the full rated duration of the emergency lights. A full record sheet needs to be maintained for each emergency luminaire and entered into a logbook, which must be available for inspection by the authorities at any time. Failure to provide full test records can result in legal action and closure of a building, and if the system is defective, the insurance policy for a building may be invalid.

Modern systems utilise the digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) protocol, as set out set out in IEC 62386, so that full remote operation and self-test is possible. DALI assigns an address to each luminaire, allowing management of each individual device, and this can be as simple as a single luminaire containing a driver and a sensor. Scheduling of monthly self-tests and annual duration tests can be set up via the internet, with all test results automatically logged.

Given the high safety importance of system testing, it makes sense to automate this function. Software can be used to monitor all the luminaires linked to the system and can schedule and run a test, with the additional ability to schedule tests in designated areas. There is also the ability to carry out either functional or durational tests, which are time definable.

A high-quality emergency lighting system will give occupants a way of evacuating a building safely in the event of a fire. The regulations, standards and guidance when it comes to specification, installation testing and maintenance are comprehensive, and designed to ensure that each building’s particular needs are thoroughly examined and understood. It is therefore imperative that facilities managers understand their legal obligations in this area and act accordingly.