Is your UK business compliant with emergency lightning regulations?

Imagine the scenario: a sudden power cut plunges your office into darkness. Panic can rise quickly in these situations, especially if employees are unsure of the safest way to exit.

Here’s where emergency lighting steps in, playing a vital role in ensuring a safe and orderly evacuation during a power outage. But are you confident your UK business adheres to the latest emergency lighting regulations?

This article will equip you with the knowledge to assess your compliance and guide you towards an effective emergency lighting system.

Understanding the regulations

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 forms the backbone of emergency lighting regulations in the UK and are reinforced by the British Standard (BS) 5266. Every workplace must have suitable emergency lighting, especially in areas where employees would be at risk if the regular lights were to fail. The person responsible for emergency lighting needs to demonstrate that the emergency lighting systems are properly installed, fit for purpose, and are maintained regularly.

Assessing your needs

Before diving into specific systems, it’s crucial to understand your workplace’s unique requirements. So, conducting a thorough risk assessment is the first step. This involves identifying areas where a power outage could pose a particular safety risk, such as corridors, staircases, and areas with hazardous materials. Consider the number of occupants, the layout of the building, and the potential obstacles during an evacuation.

Designing an effective system

There are two main categories of emergency lighting systems: maintained and non-maintained. Maintained emergency lighting systems remain illuminated at a low level even when the main power is on, automatically switching to full brightness during a power cut. Non-maintained systems only activate during a power outage.

When choosing your system, consider factors like the size and complexity of your building. Maintained systems offer greater visibility during normal operation but require more energy. Non-maintained systems are a cost-effective option for smaller workplaces but rely solely on a functional battery backup system.

Regardless of which system you choose, emergency lighting should illuminate escape routes clearly, maintaining a minimum level of illumination throughout. Exit signs and strategically placed emergency luminaires along corridors and staircases are essential. Don’t forget about disabled access points, as these areas also require appropriate emergency lighting.

For low-risk workplaces, torches can serve as sources of backup lighting, but they must be readily available throughout the workplace in sufficient quantities for the size and layout of the premises. However, they cannot replace a properly designed emergency lighting system that offers a consistently bright and unobstructed view of escape routes.

Maintaining Compliance

Compliance doesn’t end with installation. Regular testing and maintenance are crucial. The British Standard recommends monthly functional tests to verify all emergency lights operate correctly. Additionally, a full-duration test (lasting the minimum illumination time specified for your system) should be conducted annually. Record-keeping of these tests is vital for demonstrating compliance during a fire safety inspection.