How often should emergency lighting be tested?

How often should emergency lighting be tested?

Emergency lighting systems are obviously critical for the safe evacuation of a property when there is a life-threatening incident, however, it can be all to easy to overlook their importance on a day-to-day basis. Fire alarm system testing and maintenance however is a legal requirement and failure to conduct the correct emergency lighting tests could result in prosecution.

The testing of lighting can be made more complex in that there is frequently more than one type of emergency lighting employed in a building.

What types of emergency lighting are there?

There are generally three types of emergency lighting installed in a building, each serving discretely different roles for the safety of its occupants.

  1. Emergency escape lighting – provides illumination for people who need to exit a building in an emergency, such as a fire or a power cut. This includes escape route lighting signage. This lighting ensures that the means of escape for occupants of a building can be clearly identified and used in an emergency.

  2. High-risk task area lighting – provides light for the safety of people involved in potentially dangerous processes. This lighting enables proper shut-down procedures to be followed for the safety of the operator and other occupants of a building.

  3. Standby lighting – enables normal activities within in building to continue in the event of a mains power failure. Standby lighting is not a legal requirement but is a facility that some buildings may need depending on the use and occupancy of the premises.

  4. There can also be emergency lighting in some buildings that may have been particularly deemed dangerous working environments such as commercial kitchens or plant rooms. If your building has rooms larger than 60 square metres, then emergency lighting is recommended.

How long should emergency lights need to stay on for and what are the implications for testing?

A building’s size and complexity contribute to how long it will take for its occupants to evacuate. The minimum duration for an emergency escape lighting system is one hour. One hour’s duration should only be used if the premises are evacuated immediately on power supply failure and it is not reoccupied until full capacity has been restored to the batteries.

A minimum duration of 3 hours should be used for emergency escape lighting if the premises are not evacuated immediately. The 3 hour window also provides firefighters with the opportunity to address and investigate the fire or power cut in greater detail even when the occupants are all fully evacuated.

What is the legal requirement for emergency light testing?

UK fire regulations stipulate that your emergency lights should be turned on and off monthly to test them and have a full service once a year.  The latest British Standard recommends that you have a 3 hour emergency lighting test once a year, during which your main light circuit should be switched off and your emergency lights left on for a 3 hour period to find out of any batteries need replacing. How long should emergency lights be tested for?

How often should a functional test of the emergency lighting system be carried out?

Daily check for operation. This need not be more than simple walk-around and visual check to determine if the indicator lamps are fully illuminated.

Every month you need to switch off the mains power supply to the emergency lighting unit. Often, a separate switch with a ‘fish key’ is installed allowing the testing of emergency lights without having to switch off all the power. Once the mains supply is off you need to walk past all the emergency lights to ensure they are working. If there are any defects these need to be repaired immediately. It is important to record the results of your monthly checks in your fire safety logbook.

Annual emergency lighting full duration test also needs to be undertaken where the switching off the mains power supply to the emergency lighting units and then leave the units illuminated for a longer period (usually three hours). The lights should be on for the whole length of time. If any of the emergency lights fail within this time their backup battery needs to be replaced.

When is the best time to perform an emergency lighting system test?

The size, function and its availability (eg is it in operation 24/7) all play their part in determining when a lighting test should be undertaken. Here are some further factors to consider:

  • Risk factor. After you have tested your emergency systems, your building is vulnerable as the system’s battery may be depleted. Aim to test your systems at a low risk time. For many businesses, this is outside of normal work hours. Can you phase the testing if you have permanent occupants in the building, for example in a hospital or apartment block? Do you have temporary arrangements in place until your emergency system’s batteries recharge?

  • Effectiveness. Make sure your test will deliver reliable results. As an example, testing your lighting system in broad daylight might not be a good idea because you won’t be able to gauge its efficacy.

  • Convenience. Consider the time that is most convenient for your company or facility. If you need to carry out fire alarm system maintenance, for example, consider testing your emergency lighting system at the same time.

Not sure if your emergency escape lighting system or other emergency lighting is compliant?

We can help with the maintenance of your emergency lighting and, if you find that there are irregularities with the lighting system, their circuits or the back up battery then don’t hesitate to contact us.

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