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News archive - April 2019

Business as usual

Business as usual

Emergency lighting comes into play when the main power supply is cut and any normal illumination fails, such as during a fire or a power outage.

Providing emergency illumination for the safety of people leaving a location is a requirement of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and the British Standard, BS 5266-1, specifically embraces hospitals and nursing homes.

Emergency lighting products should be designed to meet the requirements of EN1838 and are normally required to operate fully automatically and give illumination of a sufficiently-high level to enable all occupants to evacuate the premises safely.

In hospitals, this also means enabling surgeons and other clinical staff to complete their work until they can safely evacuate or until power is restored.

Emergency escape lighting is sub-divided into escape route lighting, open area lighting, standby lighting, and high-risk task area lighting.

Talking it through

“The first stage of installing emergency escape lighting is consultation and design,” said a spokesman at the advice centre, Firesafe.

“The designer, responsible person, and fire risk assessor should meet and decide where the escape lighting is required and mark up a plan showing the areas to be covered, the type, mode of operation, facilities, and duration.”

The actual degree of illumination should be closely related to the nature of both the premises and its occupants, with special consideration being given to care homes and hospitals.

A spokesman for Thorn Lighting said: “Emergency lighting is required for the movement of patients, staff and visitors to a place of safety.

“In certain healthcare buildings the emergency lighting will need to take account of tasks that have to continue even when other spaces may be evacuated, known as standby lighting.

“In critical areas, such as operating theatres, delivery rooms, and high dependency units, the illuminance provided by this standby lighting should equal at least 90% of the normal mains illuminance, or thereabouts. Other important tasks, but in non-critical areas, will require standby lighting generally to 50% of the normal levels.”

A generator will supply standby lighting while escape routes will generally be covered by luminaires with integral emergency control gear.

Lighting near the doors to bedded wards will require careful illuminance and luminance control, with three-hour self-contained emergency lighting on all escape routes.

Rob Warner, managing director of emergency lighting specialist, P4, said: “Emergency lighting is something we see every day, but probably don’t give a lot of thought to. But its importance should not be underestimated. It saves lives.”

Assessing the risk

This impact was evident during the Grenfell Tower blaze in 2017.

A decade before the tragedy a report by Capita Symonds contained a number of health and safety concerns regarding the emergency lighting system installed throughout the building, which it was claimed had fallen below standard and was not being properly managed by the appointed person.

When specifying solutions, Rene Joppi, commercial director at Mackwell, advises: “Before embarking on design, a full risk assessment must be undertaken to determine the areas in the hospital which have a requirement for emergency lighting. This will include escape routes, open areas, points of emphasis such as locations of essential fire safety equipment, and any areas deemed as high-risk task.

“An accurate and compliant emergency lighting scheme design, undertaken in line with the initial risk assessment, and the emergency lighting code of practice, BS 5266-1, and its accompanying standards; BS EN 50172 and EN 1838, will ensure the areas covered are illuminated correctly and adequately.”

But, she warned: “In many cases the risk assessment is not adhered to correctly, partly due to budgetary constraints and unhelpful timescales.

“As a result, the lighting levels can be compromised as lower-quality, inferior fixtures are used and the number of fixtures specified is reduced. This can lead to poor uniformity and ‘dark spots.

“Similarly, a poorly-designed escape route with poor-quality or incorrect exit signage can lead to confusion and ambiguity in an emergency escape situation.”

And, for the emergency lighting to remain compliant throughout its designed lifetime, there are several factors to be considered.

“The performance of components is heavily dependent on how they are operated and maintained,” said Joppi.

“The rechargeable battery, for instance, is a critical component, but it can be highly susceptible to abuse through neglect, exposure to high temperatures, and overcycling etc.”

Intelligent technology

Maintenance is also crucial. For instance, if placed in a dirty environment, the light source may not be delivering its declared luminous flux, while any changes to building layout, structure and internal fabric can also have an impact on ongoing compliance.

To address these issues, the very-latest products routinely offer inbuilt diagnostics, for example on-board software that can monitor battery health.

“The idea is to provide the responsible person with preventative data regarding the ongoing performance of the associated equipment and to highlight any potential problems or drop in performance,” said Joppi.

She added: “In a rapidly-changing world where technology is evolving on a daily base and impacting on our personal lives, it is logical to presume that more intelligent technologies will increasingly find their way into public buildings such as hospitals.

“If we have the opportunity to help maintain the ongoing compliance of these buildings and the safety of their occupants, by producing intelligent technologies, we should take it.”

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