emergency lighting

Last year a report came out highlighting the finding that just under half of firms in England didn't have the correct emergency lighting in place. Industrial and commercial lighting manufacturer Hilclare revealed that 44% of companies were breaching their obligations – and it’s likely that most were completely unaware of that fact.

It’s a worrying situation that could ultimately have awful consequences. Emergency lighting is needed to clearly highlight escape routes when a building must be rapidly evacuated in an emergency situation. If the normal lighting source is no longer working, emergency lighting is designed to provide sufficient illumination so people can escape safely. It plays an essential role in enabling people to see where they are going, avoiding any obstacles in their way and helping to reduce panic levels.  It goes without saying that the worst possible outcome of a failure of emergency lighting, and the associated delays in evacuation, could be serious injury and loss of life.

As well as evacuating a building because of fire, there are other emergency situations where people may need to escape quickly including terrorist incidents and rapidly rising floodwaters. Emergency lighting should also be installed in high-risk task areas where sudden power outages could be dangerous.

Neglecting emergency lighting can lead to prosecutions

There have been many cases where building owners have been prosecuted for failing to meet their obligations, resulting in both substantial fines and prison sentences. In May this year an office block owner in Bristol admitted to a number of breaches of fire safety regulations including failing to ensure the emergency lighting provided at the premises was maintained in an adequate state of repair. The charges followed a fire which broke out in the block in December 2018, requiring over 40 firefighters to tackle the blaze. The owner was given a 12 month suspended sentence and fined £25,000 plus £25,000 costs.

There have been many other instances where emergency lighting failures have been cited as one of the breaches in prosecution cases. For example, a Nottingham based hotel owner was imprisoned for six months and fined £20,000 in 2018 following breaches that included failing to maintain the hotel’s emergency lighting system. In the same year another hotel and its management company, this time in Yorkshire, were fined around £50,000 due to fire safety offences that included failing to maintain the property’s emergency lighting system. Last year a care home company faced a fine of almost half a million pounds (later reduced to £300,000 on appeal) for fire safety failings that included deficient emergency lighting in one of its properties in Cardiff.

Don’t simply fit and forget

A significant part of the problem is what’s sometimes been called a ‘fit and forget’ approach where emergency lighting is fitted in a building and then forgotten about as the building owner believes they have fulfilled their obligations. But that isn’t the case; emergency lighting can fall out of compliance for a number of reasons and it’s important that it is regularly checked to ensure it is working correctly and maintained as set out in British standard BS 5266.

The checks should include short monthly tests, ensuring that lights activate when there is a mains failure and then fully recharge when power’s restored. Lights should also be tested annually to make sure they continue to work for their full rated duration. Ideally, conduct the tests at times when people aren’t around to allow the lights to then fully recharge before the building is at its usual capacity. Make sure that the lights, along with any accompanying signage, are clean too. If you detect any problems with your emergency lighting, bring in a reputable BAFE-registered company to repair the fault or replace where necessary. Also bear in mind that if your building layout is reconfigured in any way then you may need to make changes to your emergency lighting provision.

Do you need any advice about emergency lighting in your premises?

If so, please do get in touch with us. We can conduct a free comprehensive survey of your premises and identify exactly what is needed to meet your fire safety obligations and protect building users.