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Is Emergency Lighting A Legal Requirement?

Managing a business comes with a lot of legal responsibilities. Many of these concern the safety of those who are using your premises and are among some of the most important legalities you need to consider as a business owner or manager.

Emergency lighting is a critical part of your building’s emergency escape system and without it, the risk of accident, injury or death is incredibly high.

However many business owners are unsure as to whether emergency lighting is required by law or whether it’s just an advisable system to have in place. Let’s explore what your legal responsibilities are in the UK.

Is It A Legal Requirement To Have Emergency Lighting In The UK?

In both the United Kingdom and the EU, business and commercial properties are required to have emergency lighting. That’s the cut and dry of it but allow me to explain in a little more detail.


Several laws in the UK govern emergency lighting in the workplace. Primarily, these rules are laid out under the British Standard BS 5266-1:2016 which covers how emergency lighting should be designed, installed, maintained and tested.


But more than this, there are several other laws which mention emergency lighting as part of a bigger picture. These laws are intended to ensure the safety of occupants within any given building.


For starters, we should consider the Building Regulations 2010 Part B which state that owners of a property are required to take action to ensure that occupants can safely exit the building in case of emergency. Within this, there is an expectation that emergency lighting will be provided.


From there, we have to take a look at the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005. This legislation relates to fire risk assessments and appropriate action to ensure the safe evacuation of occupants should there be a fire. This law is very similar to what is laid out in the Building Regulations and includes details on emergency lighting.


We then move on to the Health and Safety Regulations 1996 and the part that covers Safety, Signs and Signals. Within this legislation, it states that managers must provide and maintain safety signals and signs to promote the safety of occupants and employees. Within this, emergency lighting is included.


Finally, we have the Workplace Regulations 1992 with the section that covers Health, Safety and Welfare. You’ll notice that this law insists that any workplace is designed in such a way that it promotes the health, safety and welfare of the staff and anyone visiting the building. Moreover, it details that the workplace, including emergency lighting, should be maintained to the required standard.

Why Is Emergency Lighting So Important?

Since emergency lighting is very rarely used in the event of an actual emergency, many people may overlook its importance. Some may even see it as an unnecessary additional cost but it’s vital to understand why these systems are crucial.


When there is an emergency, there is a high chance that the mains power will be affected. If people are trying to get out of the building, without any power there will also be no light. Without sufficient lighting, it makes it very difficult to find your way out, especially when other factors affect visibility like smoke from a fire.


Heaving emergency lighting ensures that, in the event of an emergency, everyone in the building has an illuminated path to escape quickly and safely. Without it, the results could be devastating. No business owner wants that on their conscience.

The Importance Of Regularly Testing Your Emergency Lighting To Remain Compliant

Having emergency lighting is one thing but without regular testing, how can you know that it’s functioning as it should?


You’ll read in various pieces of legislation that not only should a building be equipped with an emergency lighting system but it should also be well maintained.


Three main checks need to be performed to ensure your emergency lighting is working as it should. An annual check by a qualified electrician, an annual battery check to ensure the battery is running to its full capacity and a monthly battery check to ensure that the lights will activate in an emergency.


Without performing these checks there is a risk that the system could fail and you’d never know about it until it was too late. Moreover, if you haven’t maintained your emergency lighting system to a standard set out by the law, this could result in being penalised.

What Happens If I Don’t Have Emergency Lighting?

The regulatory Reform places the responsibility for emergency lighting onto the ‘responsible’ person. This could mean a variety of different individuals such as the owner of the building, the manager or the employer if the building is being rented out, for example.


In any case, ignoring the legal requirement to have emergency lighting could be disastrous both for your reputation and in legal terms.


According to the Fire Protection Association, a shocking number of British firms were found not to have adequate emergency lighting that complies with the law. As many as 44% of firms fall into this category.


The results of this report should urge you to check that your emergency lighting is up to standard because the consequences of not having a suitable emergency lighting system are very severe.


You may be hit with a very significant fine and if you’re a small business, this could put too much financial pressure on you, causing your business to fold. Even worse, there are some situations where adequate emergency lighting has not been found and the responsible person has been issued with a prison sentence.


So, emergency lighting isn’t only important for the safety of those using your building, it also protects the very business you are running. Moreover, by having correct safety procedures and equipment in place, you’re boosting your reputation and the trust that people have in you.

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