Emergency Lighting kicks in and does its job in the event of a power failure. It is a failsafe to ensure continued on site safety and allows the exit route out of a building to remain sign-posted. These signs will illuminate the area and give a clear indication of which direction to go to get out. These emergency lights come in many different forms and the batteries inside them should allow for between 1-3 hours depending on the type of business.

If you need help with:

  • Installation of a new emergency lighting system
  • Annual checks, inspection and your annual discharge test

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How are emergency lights tested and serviced?

Emergency lighting systems should be tested and serviced as follows:

Daily: Onsite trained and appointed person should perform a visual inspection of central power supply indicators to ensure the system is operational (only applies to central battery systems).

Monthly: Onsite trained and appointed person should test all emergency lighting systems monthly. Emergency lighting signage regulations require all luminaries and signs to illuminate and be clean and present. The monthly test will be a quick ‘flick’ test just to ensure that the emergency lighting switches on correctly. The log book should be filled out.

Annual: Annual tests need to check that lights remain on for the test duration recommended by the relevant British Standard. All lights need to continue functioning correctly at the end of the test. Those that don’t require replacement should be filed in the onsite logbook with the latest information.

Different types of emergency lighting

Emergency lighting falls into 4 different types, these include:

Escape route lighting: Exit route lighting is a type of lighting that illuminates routes to fire escapes and emergency exits, helping occupants avoid other occupants as they leave the building.

Open area emergency lighting: This type of emergency lighting is sometimes called “anti-panic” lighting and assists occupants when trying to find an escape from a building. Organisations install these lights in open areas to provide enough light to be able to escape safely in the event of an emergency.

High-risk task area lighting: Some workspaces play host to extremely high-risk tasks (such as working with tools or operating machinery). High-risk task area lighting needs to operate in the event of an emergency to keep them illuminated long enough for workers to cease working, switch machinery or cookers off, put down tools, and move to safety.

Standby lighting: This type of lighting kicks in when the power goes out. But unlike the other types of emergency lighting, the law does not require it. Usually, power comes from a diesel generator and keeps the lights on until technicians restore mains power.


Where do you need emergency lighting?​

Where you install your emergency lighting matters; incorrect siting, leaving exit routes unlit can lead to significant risks. You should place lighting and signs in such a way that clearly illuminates escape routes and exits from your premises. Regulations state that you should use an illuminated sign instead of an emergency lighting luminaire when the final exit is not readily identifiable by occupants.

Businesses also need to ensure that they correctly illuminate problem areas. These could include:

  • Stairwells
  • Places where the floor level changes
  • Toilet areas (greater than 8m2)
  • Intersections in corridors
  • Changes in the direction of the escape route

You don’t have to provide lights for every item in this list, but you should ensure that all areas receive sufficient lighting for people to navigate their way out of the building. Most luminaire manufacturers specify how far apart you should place lighting to ensure optimal illumination on your premises. 

Regular fire risk assessments will identify areas requiring emergency lighting. This ensures compliance with regulations even if you modify the building layout, such as adding internal walls. Updating the emergency lighting system after layout changes keeps everyone safe in case of a fire.

If you need help finding an appropriate Health & Safety consultant to work with, please let us know, we work with lots and can pass over details where needed.

How bright?

Emergency escape lighting needs to remain on for a minimum duration of three hours on premises that you cannot evacuate immediately, such as places where people sleep, like hotels or HMOs. Minimum illumination falls to one hour in situations where you can evacuate the premises rapidly and don’t need to re-occupy the premises quickly.

Organisations should test their lights annually for the full test duration to ensure that they can provide emergency lighting for the required period. If they cannot, then the backup battery requires replacement.

How long does my emergency lighting need to stay on?

How bright should the exit routes be lit? BS 5266 emergency lighting guidelines recommend varying illuminations, depending on the location of the lighting.

  • Floor level: lighting of no less than one lux
  • Anti-panic areas: lighting of no less than 0.5 lux

Note that you should light escape routes less than 2 metres wide using one lux lighting.

Exit routes of more than 2 metres wide should be treated as a series of two-metre strips, each with one lux lighting covering at least 50 per cent of their width.