CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
New guide available: ignorance of law on emergency signs and lighting could have tragic consequences
New guide available: ignorance of law on emergency signs and lighting could have tragic consequencesKeywords: Fire safety, Signs, Lighting, Preventive maintenance
Incorrect fire safety signs and inadequate emergency lighting provision means that many companies and businesses are unwittingly breaking the law. In the event of a fire this is a case where ignorance is not bliss, warns the Electrical Contractors' Association. It is a case where incorrect signage and the lack of a regular testing and maintenance programme for emergency lighting can have fatal consequences.
Text-only signs saying "Exit" or "Fire Exit" are still seen in many business premises, shops and restaurants despite legislation requiring them to be replaced with the pictogram format "Running man" signs. Under the Health and Safety (safety signs and signals) Regulations introduced in 1996 to enact the EU Signs Directive, all text-only signs should have been replaced with the pictogram format by 24 December 1998. Furthermore, under the Building Regulations and the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations which were introduced in 1997, not only must emergency routes and exits be correctly signposted, signs requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting in case of the failure of their normal lighting source.
The effectiveness of escape routes can be very much affected by the provision of correct emergency lighting that is properly maintained. "All too often emergency lighting is seen as being a 'fit and forget' product", says David Pollock, Director of the Electrical Contractors' Association. "The emergency lighting system would have been carefully designed, installed and certified as complying with the relevant standards. Once fitted it is then totally neglected. This could have fatal consequences should smoke or the failure of the normal lights prevent the building's occupants from being able to find the escape routes. Also, the insurance cover of premises may be affected if emergency lighting systems are found to be incorrectly maintained."
The ECA, in conjunction with the Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting, has produced a new guide to emergency lighting legislation that outlines the maintenance required to prevent the failure of emergency lighting systems. Guidance for Electrical Contractors on Emergency Lighting Legislation recommends checking the system on a daily, monthly, six-monthly and annual basis. Each day, a visual check that all maintained lamps and power supply indicators are working should be carried out and any system fault should be recorded and acted upon. Every month, all emergency lighting should be tested by simulating a failure of the normal lighting supply. The test should not exceed a quarter of the rated duration time of the equipment. A test for one third of the rated duration time should be carried out every six months. Once a year there should be a full system test carried out by a competent electrical engineer. This should include a full rated duration test and checks for full compliance of the system with all relevant standards.
The maintenance of the emergency lighting system should be part of an overall fire precaution risk assessment. The need for such an assessment is the result of the implementation of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 and the subsequent deregulation of some premises previously covered by Fire Certificates. Emergency lighting is one of the life safety systems required for premises where people are employed.
"To not have the right signage and required emergency lighting is against the law. Judging by the number of premises that still have the old text-only signs, it is obvious that many companies and businesses have not realised their legal obligations", says Mr Pollock. "The worry here is that if they have not actioned the replacement of the old signs then they probably have not even thought about updating and maintaining their emergency lighting. This could be putting the lives of the building's occupants at risk. We hope that the publication of this guide will assist electrical contractors to explain to customers how to meet their statutory responsibilities."