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22 April 2018
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Emergency Lighting Changes: No Reason to Panic

15 September 2016 By Andrew Balmer


Recent revisions to emergency lighting requirements in the UK shouldn’t be a cause for consternation – but do mean that facilities managers need to carefully review their current installations. Andrew Balmer, lighting designer at Greenlite, looks in detail at the latest measures.

The need for commercial spaces of all shapes and sizes to undertake regular reviews of their emergency lighting should require little explanation. As well as guaranteeing the safety and comfort of staff, there is also the fact that even seemingly minor compliance failures can result in substantial penalties.

But if you haven’t paid the subject much thought lately, the recent changes to the relevant BS5266 standards – to bring them into line with the European emergency lighting luminous requirement specification standard, BS EN 1838:2013 – should be enough to prompt a thorough review. 

The revision expands the scope of the existing standard in several key ways, not least in its extension to cover high-risk task lighting – in other words, providing illumination for the safety of people involved in potentially dangerous processes or situations, and enabling proper shut-down procedures for the safety of the operator and other occupants.

There are also a number of additions that have potentially far-reaching consequences for the design of new systems, or the refurbishment of existing ones. Among other areas, these include guidance on the implementation of requirements and solutions, particularly with regard to suitability and energy use, as well as advice on planning schemes for required equipment. There is also guidance about several specific types of building space, such as swimming pools and ‘open balcony’ entrance areas in apartment blocks.

Above all, there is a heightened emphasis on the responsibilities that FMs and building owners must bear to ensure that emergency lighting is deployed and used effectively. So the new version highlights that risk assessments are needed for all premises and should identify the risks to people entering a premises, and that the assessor must ensure that safe means of escape – taking into account the needs of people with disabilities – are in place.

Given the complexity and extent of the regulations as they now stand, it is arguable that only an emergency lighting system test  can provide complete peace of mind with regard to compliance. But if this is something you are not in a position to carry out immediately, there are measures you can take to verify whether there are problems with present installations.

There isn’t much to threaten compliance failure if FMs carry out reviews of their emergency lighting installations, and undertake regular assessment thereafter.  

Measures to take

Exit boxes

Make sure that there are exit boxes where required. The obvious ones are situated at final exits, but if it is necessary to pass through a room to get to the exit, an additional exit box – or sufficiently lit sign – is needed beforehand as well.

Check the spacing of existing bulkheads

As a rough guide, based on a standard 8W bulkhead these should be three metres from the wall and  6m apart with a 2.8m ceiling; the exact data should be available within the log book or direct from the manufacturer. Also, it is possible that in many existing retail outlets, for example, installations have been designed to the old regulations at 0.2 lux for an open area in which it should now be 0.5 lux. Meanwhile, exit routes should now be at 1 lux along the centre line.

The importance of regular checks

The new regulations also stress the imperative for a log book to be kept on-site noting all tests and repairs, while in our client visits we are emphasising the importance of daily checks of the operational LEDs to make sure that emergency lights are on/charging, as well as more extensive monthly functional and annual duration tests.

Andrew Balmer lighting designer at Greenlite