Emergency lighting, like terrorism insurance or the airbag in your car, is something that we all hope we will never need. Thankfully, in most blocks it is infrequently – if ever – used, so this aspect of block lighting isn’t always uppermost in block managers or their residents’ minds. An understandable but potentially dangerous attitude and one that, as lighting consultants, we are working to change.
If there were to be a major incident at your block and residents were plunged into darkness the emergency lighting could save lives – but only if it is fit for purpose. Imagine how much more serious the worst-case scenario could become if your system is poorly maintained and doesn’t work properly when it’s really needed.
Of course, the majority of property owners are fully aware that emergency lighting provision isn’t something that can just be left to chance. There is a legal requirement to test and record maintenance on installations on a regular basis and this obligation also extends to property managers, RTMCos and RMC directors where they are designated the ‘responsible person’ under the code of practice for the emergency escape lighting of premises. This guidance is worth reading, as many simply overlook their obligations but if you are found negligent, you could not only face fines or court proceedings for non-compliance with the law, you could also be putting residents’ lives in danger.
Have you read the revised code for emergency lighting?
In order to set out clearly what ‘responsible persons’ need to do, in May 2016, a revised Code BS 5266 – 1: 2016 was introduced. This provides detailed guidance to give confidence to property owners, landlords and managers that they are meeting their legal requirements for emergency lighting of common access routes within blocks of flats.
The revised code sets out to promote a wider understanding of the different types of emergency lighting systems that can be used, outlining how installations can be correctly applied to different categories of premises with varied requirements. It also recognises that, in addition to ensuring safe unobstructed means of escape from the premises at all times, an important function of emergency lighting is to make possible the immediate location and operation of fire alarm call points and fire-fighting equipment, and also to minimise the chance of people panicking in enclosed spaces such as lifts.
What does the code of practice cover?
The revised British Standard provides guidance on:
risk assessments – these are needed for all premises, including measures to provide a safe means of escape for people with disabilities including visual impairment;
providing suitable illumination for the safety of people involved in potentially dangerous processes or situations, to enable proper shut-down procedures for the safety of the operator and other occupants of the premises;
suitability of installations for particular applications;
illumination of external 'open balcony' approaches to flats/maisonettes within blocks;
Effective planning of appropriate lighting installations;
development of new types of installation;
illumination of swimming pools;
the installation process, testing and commissioning; and
Block owners don’t need to worry about new build developments as these are equipped with building regulation compliant equipment. There’s little room for installation variation as the British standard provides clear guidelines.
What about maintenance?
The real headache begins when maintenance considerations are brought into play. These are vital but also time consuming and so it makes sense to think about maintenance before it becomes a problem. By writing your emergency lighting into your planned maintenance schedule in advance, you can ensure your installation runs efficiently and compliantly and protect your block’s residents without any of the worry or hassle of last-minute call-outs.
Don’t leave it to chance; if you only manage to keep one New Year’s resolution in 2017, make it the one where you make sure your block lighting is fully compliant with the new regulations.
Jamie Willsdon, Director at Future Lighting