Emergency lighting systems are installed to provide assistance in evacuating a building in the event of loss of supply to the general lighting circuits through fire for instance. The Fire Precautions (workplace) Regulations 1997 state that “Emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in case lighting fails”. It is the responsibility of all employers to ensure that these systems are suitably maintained and checked to ensure they are safe and compliant. All emergency lighting systems should now be installed, tested and inspected in accordance with BS5266-1.
Realistically, everybody has a duty to ensure the safety of others whilst at work; however, your employer will have ultimate responsibility for electrical safety. If nobody at your place of work is clear on who is responsible, then the responsibility falls on the most senior person. It is important to know who has the responsibility for safety and welfare of staff in order to establish that compliance is achieved.
Emergency lighting test and inspection requires that every circuit supplying an emergency light is isolated to demonstrate that the internal battery in the emergency fittings keeps the exits illuminated during power failure. Every 12 months a 3 hour run down test is performed to ensure the battery is capable of doing so for the desired period. Each light is inspected to ensure it operates correctly and that the lamp inside is sound. Furthermore the inspecting engineer will ensure that there are a sufficient number of lights and that the correct evacuation legends are fitted.
It is vital that this type of work is carried by a qualified and experienced test Operative. Such Operatives are generally fully qualified electricians who have experience of test and inspection and have been trained and qualified in emergency lighting inspection work specifically. When selecting your contractor you should ask to see evidence of their qualifications and experience in this type of work.
There will be some impact such as short periods of isolation on lighting circuits including an Annual 3 hour run down test. With careful planning and strong liaison between you and your contractor, this can be conducted at a time that best suits your business. Be wary of contractors that tell you this work can be fully carried out without isolating lighting circuits – it is impossible.
Upon completion of the emergency lighting test and inspection you will receive a report that details the condition of the emergency lighting system and any defects from the British Standards, which will require attention.
If you are not a technical person, then your contractor should be pleased to talk through your report with you and advise you of any further action required. Your contractor should enter the details of the inspection in your on-site log-book.
There are many factors that can affect the cost of emergency lighting test and inspection such as location, type of installation, size of building(s), access and availability of previous records. As a rule of thumb, your contractor should attend site prior to quoting to survey the building(s) in order to establish all of the necessary details, you should be wary of accepting a quotation unless a full survey has been conducted or you are sure you have provided enough information.
There are many reasons not to do emergency lighting test and inspection such as cost, inconvenience, or lack of knowledge. However none of these reasons will be accepted as a defence in the event that loss of power supply occurs and safe evacuation is not possible. Aside from the threat of prosecution in the event of fire, injury or death, surely the safety of your colleagues, employees, patients or belongings are reason enough to test and inspect emergency lighting systems at work.