Your Simple Emergency Lighting Regulations Guide
Posted: 08/03/2023
4 minute read
Emergency lighting regulations guide
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Your Simple Emergency Lighting Regulations Guide

In an emergency that compromises your regular lighting, such as a fire or general power outage – it’s important to have emergency lighting in place. But the emergency lighting regulations that come with them might make this seem complicated.

Emergency lighting is a failsafe designed to provide adequate illumination so that people can see when ordinary lighting cuts out. In turn, they can then evacuate the building safely and calmly should such action be required. 

By providing emergency lighting in your commercial premises, you’re helping to avoid panic in emergencies, which can often be the cause of further injury and distress. You are also ensuring your legal duties regarding safety – and fire safety in particular – are taken care of.

This month at Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we wanted to help you better understand emergency lighting regulations, so here’s our quick and easy guide on the topic.

Emergency lighting regulations guide


Emergency lighting BS 5266-1

BS 5266-1 is the British Standard for emergency lighting, detailing the minimum requirements for all commercial premises – including hotels, schools and care homes – as well as all multi-storey buildings.

These standards are closely tied with fire risk assessments given the following statement from BS 5266-1: “if a risk assessment shows that emergency safety lighting is needed, it should meet the recommendations given in 5.3.2 [minimum illuminance] and 5.3.3 [safety signs].”

As well as this, the standard covers the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance required for such systems.


What are the different types of emergency lighting?

Since there are a wide variety of property and building types out there, there are also four general emergency lighting systems that can be applied:

  1. Escape route lighting – to illuminate escape routes and guide people
  2. Open area emergency lighting – to illuminate open areas and avoid panic
  3. High-risk task area lighting – to illuminate areas where lighting is needed while machinery is shut down or turned off before moving to safety
  4. Standby lighting – to illuminate other, standard areas of a building (not a legal requirement)


Do I need emergency lighting?

Do I need emergency lighting?

Yes. Not only is emergency lighting a legal requirement set out by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005…

“Emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs; and emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.”

…but it’s also crucial for helping to keep the occupants in your building safe.

As we mentioned previously, the unexpected loss of lighting in an emergency can cause panic and increase the risk of injury. With lighting that is activated in these situations, people can be guided safely outside to an assembly point. It can also assist fire and rescue services once they arrive on the scene.

You can read more about the legal necessity for emergency lighting in our previous piece on the topic here.


How long does emergency lighting have to stay on for?

Emergency lighting has minimum duration times depending on the use of the building.

For example, in a building where evacuation is difficult to complete immediately, such as a hotel, the emergency lighting must remain on for a minimum of three hours. This is so people have enough time to leave safely. For buildings where evacuation can be carried out much faster, emergency lighting must stay on for at least an hour.


How often should emergency lighting be tested?

How Often Should Emergency Lighting Be Tested?

Testing for emergency lighting should be carried out at least annually, but there is no harm in it being tested at more regular intervals. You should check your emergency lighting daily, using a visual check; monthly, switching the lights on; then annually to the relevant British Standards.

The lights should be tested annually to the duration length required (see the previous section) to ensure they can deliver illumination for the amount of time needed in an emergency.

Testing should be carried out in line with BS EN 50172 and BS 5266-8 by a qualified individual. The responsible person for your building must arrange for this testing and ensure that it is regularly scheduled.


Here at Surrey Tech Services Ltd, we’re professional commercial electricians experienced in fire safety regulations. So whether you need emergency lighting installed in your premises or you need testing and maintenance, look no further. 

Covering London and the Home Counties – including Maidenhead, Guildford and Slough – we help you with all your lighting and fire safety requirements. Simply call today and request a quote or speak to our friendly team about what you need for your building.

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    Call us now on 08081 689 497 to find out more about our fire alarm design, installation and maintenance services.