Be safe, not sorry

Jan 2, 2012 | Lighting

ICEL, the emergency lighting arm of the Lighting Industry Federation (LIF), stress that all relevant emergency lighting regulations, and the standards that support them, should be complied with to ensure the safety of buildings and their occupants – there are no short cuts. Although commercial buildings cover many different businesses and types of operation, they all have one thing in common – they all contain people. Legislation dictates that they must be safe at all times and as such, all commercial and industrial buildings will need emergency lighting schemes that are fit for purpose in protecting them and their occupants if an emergency occurs.

It is vital that a risk assessment of the premises, that has been carried out by a competent person on behalf of the owner/occupier, is supplied to the lighting designer prior to undertaking the design of an emergency lighting scheme. This document should clearly identify any anticipated risks from activities planned to take place in the premises.

Accurate plans of the premises should also be provided that clearly show the layout of points of specific risk, which may include staircases, lifts, changes of level and any fire fighting or first aid equipment. Some buildings have moveable partition walls which can be a cause of concern for scheme designers if the specified lighting levels, or emergency evacuation routes, are adversely affected by the moving of such partitions. Therefore, care must be taken to ensure that exit route signs are suitable and are fully visible at all times.

In addition, extra emergency lighting provision may have to be made to ensure that the premises concerned meets the requirements of the Disabilities Discrimination Act (DDA) and allows for the safe shutdown of any equipment installed.


Building Regulations require that systems comply with BS 5266-1, the code of practice for emergency lighting. The design guidance document, BS 5266 Part 10: 2008, provides guidance on the method of assessing the requirements for emergency lighting to high risk areas, with recommendations for a number of selective examples. These include kitchens, plant rooms and first aid rooms etc. ICEL’s 1006 document could also be consulted to establish the types of risks that may be encountered in many premises – included in this is a model risk assessment plan.

European standard EN 1838, which covers minimum emergency lighting design requirements for workplace applications, should also be consulted. Compliance with this standard will help to ensure that the minimum emergency lighting levels within the building concerned are met, and that all emergency luminaire and exit signs are correctly placed and are fully compliant.

To ensure that the emergency luminaires and exit signs themselves also comply, products from ICEL registered companies, or companies that have had their products third party tested and approved to EN 60598.2.22, should be considered for use. This will help to ensure that the performance and life expectancy of the emergency lighting scheme is maintained.

No quick fix

ICEL claim that, for the safety of buildings and their occupants, all relevant emergency lighting regulations, and the standards that support them, should be complied with. There are no short cuts or cheap solutions to successfully providing a cost effective and well designed emergency lighting solution. A well designed and compliant emergency lighting installation provides lighting of a suitable quality and quantity if a mains power failure or other emergency evacuation situation occurs.

It will also bring peace of mind to all involved that the scheme concerned is fit for purpose in protecting the building and its occupants. Non-compliant emergency lighting systems may not do this, and if anything goes wrong, designers, building owners, facilities managers and responsible persons may find themselves in the unenviable position of being prosecuted for non-compliance with the regulations.

Therefore, initial scheme design, as well as regular risk assessments carried out in the premises concerned, are even more crucial today than they used to be. All those involved are responsible if the emergency lighting installation is not fit for purpose. The same is true if poor maintenance causes the emergency lighting luminaires to fail to provide the correct lighting levels required for the safety of the building’s occupants. Be safe, not sorry – ensure that your emergency lighting is compliant and fit for purpose.