Building landlords and occupiers, and employers, are obliged by law to carry out risk assessments to ensure that their premises are such that safe escape in the event of a fire or other emergency is easy. Emergency lighting is part of this, and the Emergency lighting standard, BS5266, defines the requirements for the correct installation of emergency lighting. The equivalent European standard is prEN50172/prEN1838.
BS5266 part-1 sets out the requirements for continued user checks, plus routine inspections and tests. Testing in accordance with BS5266-1 demonstrates compliance with UK Regulations, though this has been updated and amended with the addition of BS5266-10 (see elsewhere in this VoltiBULLETIN).
It is also a requirement for building landlords, occupiers and employers to test their emergency lighting systems regularly and record the results. This is very important - can they, for example, prove when necessary that they have carried out their 'duty of care'? In practise, using conventional test and inspection techniques, this means that a responsible person has to 'fail' the supply to the local mains lighting circuits so as to activate the emergency luminaires. This could be potentially unsafe if a fire occurred, for example, while testing. He /she must then check every luminaire for condition and proper operation. In large buildings, such testing etc can be a long and difficult job, and is sometimes impossible to achieve whilst keeping the building concerned in a legal and fully working state. This is because emergency lighting has to be always working ready for activation. In any case, carrying out such work regularly is expensive, and there could well be legal or life threatening consequences if tests are missed or luminaires overlooked.
BS5266 requires the following: a daily visual check operation of lamps in maintained luminaires; a monthly functional test (not exceeding 25% of the rated duration); a six-monthly test of at least an hour (for three hour systems); a full annual full discharge test, and - following this period and after three years is up - the annual test must be for the full duration. Note that the six monthly test requirement has now been removed from the amended BS5266, but the full duration test is still required every year following commissioning. (CHECK????) Finally, BS5266 also requires that a logbook is kept up to date with details of the emergency lighting system installed, together with all events and checks to be logged.
There are significant benefits for building landlords and occupiers, and employers because such self-testing of emergency lighting systems will automatically advise whether there is a fault that requires remedial action. Not only can these, therefore, save companies and their building services managers potentially a great deal of time and money, they also provide greater peace of mind and, to some extent at least, reduce the high responsibility that was previously required.
Self-testing emergency lighting systems:
This is the background to the advent of self-testing (or 'auto-test') emergency lighting products and systems. These, sometimes integral with emergency lighting modules, ensure that all luminaires are correctly tested at the appropriate times (and to coincide with times of least risk) without the use of skilled people, so automatic testing can be carried out at any time of day or night. Automatic logging of the results ensures that full and accurate records are maintained, in compliance with BS5266. Money is saved in this way, because of specific fault identification and faster subsequent remedial action. There is another benefit in that self-test emergency lighting systems help prolong battery life by keeping them exercised.
Such emergency lighting auto-test systems may be modular and should work with all high frequency (HF) lighting ballasts. Self-contained self-test emergency lighting luminaires will each have an in-built microprocessor that carries out a pre-programmed testing regime independent of each other. The on-board IC chip continuously monitors the fixture and reports any malfunctions via a user interface.
Such systems ensure that only a small proportion of the total number of luminaires will be tested on any given day (typically for five minutes). Testing will, in any case, take place during times of minimum risk. Longer duration test are carried out every so often at pre-determined times - according to BS5266 requirements.
Self-testing systems will also - as a matter of routine - check the following parameters: inverter fault; battery discharge and low battery; battery charger operation; lamp condition and over temperature; and the operation of the emergency lighting circuits, including mains failure, high input voltage, earth fault, and output overload.
Status can be reported by indicating colour LEDs, which differentiate between the testing and potential luminaire failures, and some systems will report to the building management system (BMS) or to a PC. An audible (and/or visual) alarm will sound if a fault condition is found. All further tests will then be suspended until the luminaire concerned is investigated. This will continue until the fault is repaired and the control unit reset. The control panels can usually be programmed using a keypad, of through use of a PC via an RS232 serial port.
Self-testing emergency lighting systems can include any or all of the following: compatibility with self-contained, central or static inverter systems (panel or PC-controlled); remote monitoring and flexible programming; a networking capability; and with a printer if required.
Computer-addressable self-testing emergency lighting systems have been examined against manual switch-operated systems. It has been found that the initial cost outlay has been justified when set against the cost of meeting subsequent responsibilities for testing and maintenance. In fact, payback periods can be quite short, especially as there is no need for regular manual inspections of rooms and corridors.
Some of the latest self-testing emergency lighting designs are wireless - using a radio monitoring (MHz range) LAN addressable system. The range is typically 100m or more. Such equipment needs no costly physical data wiring to the emergency luminaires, and it removes the need for costly wiring, saving money, time and disruption, and providing a number of other practical benefits for both installer and occupier. Older buildings and historic buildings benefit still more, because there is little or no damage to décor and structure, and making good is therefore not necessary.