Emergency Lighting Compliance

In this article, Stephen Biggs, Technical Manager at Tamlite Lighting, takes a closer look at emergency lighting and explores the crucial considerations to ensure buildings remain safe and compliant.


In an era in which building safety has attained an ever-higher profile in the public consciousness, you could easily assume that emergency lighting is a de facto priority in the development and maintenance of all buildings. Unfortunately, our experience indicates that, all too frequently, it is still an issue that is being tackled in the later stages of a project, and sometimes with inadequate knowledge of the technical and legal requirements. As a leading lighting manufacturer, we take a look at some of the most frequently-asked questions to help you ensure your facility is safe and compliant.

What is emergency lighting and who is responsible for it?

Under the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005, emergency lighting is a legal requirement for buildings such as hotels, offices, hospitals, education establishments and multi-storey dwellings, and should be installed and tested in line with BS 5266:1 2016.

In the event of a mainspower failure, the emergency lighting system, including signage, should provide adequate lighting levels and directional indication to allow occupants to move safely around the building, and evacuate to a safe place without accident or injury.

The need for greater accountability, and holding those in charge throughout the various stages of the building’s existence accountable for any mistakes, is something that has been even more dominant since the tragedy that unfolded at Grenfell Tower in June 2017. Legislation says that it is the duty of the responsible person to ensure that the correct and appropriate emergency lighting is installed, and that the maintenance carried out is adequate to protect the occupants. The responsible person can be any person who has control over the building and areas within it, such as the building owner, facilities manager, employer, landlord or letting agent.

What are the most common mistakes when it comes to emergency lighting?

Emergency lighting is an essential part of a building safety system. Yet some of the common mistakes made include missing risk assessments, non-compliance with legislation, lack of maintenance checks and regular testing of the emergency lighting systems. Taking accountability throughout the lifecycle of a building will play a key role in restoring confidence in the design, construction, maintenance and operation of buildings, so it is important to ensure that the systems in place are fit for purpose.

What are the different types of emergency lighting luminaires?

Emergency lighting luminaires are those that come on automatically when the power supply fails. The types of luminaires are divided into two categories – escape lighting and standby lighting.

Escape lighting illuminates escape routes, such as corridors, stairways and emergency exit signage, allowing occupants to quickly evacuate the building. It also illuminates the location of crucial safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, in the event of an emergency. Escape lighting is sub-divided into three categories: open area lighting, escape route lighting and high-risk task area lighting.

Standby lighting is a part of the emergency lighting system that allow normal activities to continue in the event of failure of the normal mains supply. It is not a legal requirement.

What is the difference between maintained and non-maintained emergency lighting?

There are two main types of emergency lighting: maintained and non-maintained.

Maintained emergency lighting luminaires operate as normal light fittings during everyday operation and can be controlled with all other luminaires in the area. When power fails, they automatically switch to battery backup.

Non-maintained emergency lighting luminaires remain off during everyday operation and will only illuminate if the mains power fails. Tamlite has a range of maintained and non-maintained emergency fittings to suit the requirement of any building. We have designed our fittings to be aesthetically pleasing and not draw on the eye when not in use, but to provide crucial illumination in an emergency.

What lux level should emergency lighting provide?

Different areas of a building require a minimum lux level for emergency lighting.

Escape routes must be lit to a minimum of 1 lux on the floor along the centre line. The 1m centre bandwidth should be illuminated to at least 0.5 lux.

Points of emphasis, such as changes in directions and level, as well as firefighting equipment, must be illuminated to a minimum of 5 lux.

In open areas over 60m2, the minimum lighting level on the ground must be no less than 0.5 lux. In open areas that are less than 60m2, emergency lighting is not required.

Industrial environments, such as warehouses, can be difficult to navigate, particularly for unfamiliar people. A high output luminaire will be key to providing sufficient illumination in these environments where 0.5 lux is required on the ground.

How long do emergency lighting batteries last?

Emergency lights are powered by rechargeable backup batteries. These are located inside the emergency light or in a central battery location with connections running to each emergency light. All Tamlite emergency lighting products are designed with the end-user in mind. They are three hours rated to ensure they provide sufficient light for a long enough period of time, to make sure that occupants can exit a building safely.

What is the legal requirement for emergency light testing?

The provision and maintenance of an effective emergency lighting system is of paramount importance. It is a legal requirement that emergency lighting should be installed and tested in line with BS 5266:1 2016. Failure to comply will result in a significant fine or potential jail sentence. Legislation dictates that the emergency lighting system must undergo a full test on an annual basis. This three-hour test ensures that all emergency lights will function and produce an acceptable level of light.

Like all emergency equipment, emergency lighting should be maintained and tested regularly to ensure it is in full working order. For example, a daily visual inspection can be carried out to check the batteries are operational, whilst a monthly test can be carried out to ensure luminaires turn on in the event of a power outage.

Overall, the importance of emergency lighting cannot be understated. In this context, it is advisable to partner with a specialist lighting provider such as Tamlite, safe in the knowledge that this provides the most direct route to achieving an emergency infrastructure that is entirely fit for purpose.

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