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Emergency Lighting, the Basics: What You Need to Know to Keep You Compliant

Adrian Gooch •

Emergency lighting is important and necessary for any public building; whether they are commercial, industrial, retail or leisure. Major surveys of emergency lighting installations have shockingly found that more than half of emergency lighting schemes surveyed would not work in an emergency situation.


In general, businesses are failing to keep their systems properly maintained and up to date.  If a building’s structure were to change, for example if walls are moved or extensions added, then the emergency lighting scheme will also need to be altered to reflect these changes and be maintained accordingly.

Many businesses see emergency lighting as a ‘fit and forget system’, with initial cost being the biggest concern with little or no consideration given to the on-going costs of maintaining the systems. It is from this point that businesses often struggle to remain compliant with the relevant standards and legislation.

What do you need to do?

There are different types of emergency lighting required in most buildings, so anyone undertaking the design, replacement or maintenance of an emergency lighting scheme, should carry out a risk assessment to identify which areas require emergency lighting, as well as the type of installation required. They should be in possession and have an understanding of the following standards:-

  • BS 5266-1:2016 Code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises.
  • BS EN 60598-2-22 British and European standard for emergency luminaires.
  • BS 5499-10:2014 Guidance for the selection and use of safety signs and fire safety notices.

The regulations governing emergency lighting are periodically updated.  Consequently, many existing emergency lighting schemes in operation have not been upgraded or maintained correctly to reflect regulatory changes; therefore falling foul of current legislation.

The common question: “what happens if I don’t comply with the standards?”

The problem many businesses fail to understand is that if a person or persons are injured or killed as a result of the emergency lighting system not working correctly in an emergency situation, the individuals or company responsible for the failure will incur a fine or a custodial sentence under the following legislation, which are acts of parliament:-

  • The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, an EU Directive designed to harmonise signs across the EU.

Many businesses who have this ‘fit and forget’ idea do not realise that their risk assessment will be checked by the Local Fire Authority, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 TheFire Safety Audits for England, and will require acceptance by the local fire authority. Alternatively, where a safety certificate is required, the local authority shall be the enforcing authority. Above all, the enforcing authority will also undertake further audits to check your building premises remain safe and compliant.

Attention to the following guidance is imperative for all employers, managers, occupiers and owners of premises who are responsible for the fire safety of their building(s) and tells you what you have to do to comply with fire safety law, helps you to carry out a fire risk assessment and identify the general fire precautions you need to have in place.

However, it should be noted that the above Standards are applicable only to England and Wales.

For Scotland, please click here.

For Northern Ireland, please click here.

Our experts frequently help resolve the common misconceptions of fire safety laws, so if you need advice about the design, replacement or maintenance of your facility’s emergency lighting system, please contact us

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