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Emergency Lighting Regulations for 2023

Emergency Lighting Regulations for 2023

Emergency lighting is a critical part of fire safety practice in commercial and industrial buildings, offering occupants illumination and guidance when normal lighting fails for any reason.

Green emergency exit sign or fire exit sign showing the way to escape with arrow symbol.

This comprehensive guide will provide all the information and advice you need to know about emergency lighting, including what it is, why you need it and the specific regulations and laws that exist concerning its use.

Why do I need emergency lighting?

The main reason for needing emergency lighting is that it can save lives – in an emergency situation where power and lighting has been lost, it illuminates escape routes and exit points and can help to prevent panic. 

However, there’s another key reason why you should have it installed, and that’s because it is required by law.


What are the regulations on emergency lighting in the UK?

The main regulations for emergency lighting can be found in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Building Regulations 2006, The Workplace Directive, British Standard BS 5266 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (Statutory).

These regulations apply to all commercial premises and sectors in the UK. As well as shops, offices, factories, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, warehouses, schools and hospitals, that includes some residential premises, such as HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation) and common areas in properties containing at least two private residential dwellings.


The four types of emergency lighting

There are four typical types of emergency lighting that can be installed, either individually or to build as a system:

  • Escape route lighting – This type of emergency lighting ensures that the quickest, safest routes to an exit are illuminated for the occupants of the building to use.
  • Open area lighting – This lighting is put in place to help reduce panic in building occupants by providing more illumination, thereby allowing people to exit the building calmly.
  • Standby lighting – Depending on how a building is used and the people within, standby lighting can be used, but it is not a legal requirement. This is simply a type of lighting which allows normal activity to continue in a building during a power outage.
  • High risk task area lighting – This is the part of the system which gives light in areas where dangerous situations could occur – with machinery, for example – and allows for the safe shutdown of operations.

Where should emergency lighting be placed?

The precise location of your emergency lighting will be dictated by your fire risk assessment.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, Part 2, Article 14.2(h) states that: “emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting”. 

This can include all exit doors, any changes in direction in an escape route, trip hazards (such as stairs), lifts and illuminated fire exit signs, along with firefighting equipment and alarms, large publicly accessible areas of 60m2 or more, windowless rooms and toilets greater than 8m2 and first aid equipment.


What is BS 5266 and is it a legal requirement?

BS 5266-1 falls under Building Regulations and is a legal requirement in the UK. It provides detailed guidance on all aspects of emergency lighting, covering everything from its design and installation to minimum duration, testing and maintenance, and the minimum luminosity required in different areas.


Classifications for emergency lighting

Replacing the old NM/M system of classifying lighting, there is now a different system, using a letter-number-letter-number system from the following categories:


  • X = self-contained
  • Y = central battery

Mode of operation

  • 0 = non-maintained
  • 1 = maintained
  • 2 = combined non-maintained
  • 3 = combined maintained
  • 4 = compound non-maintained
  • 5 = compound maintained
  • 6 = satellite


  • A = includes test device
  • B = includes remote test device
  • C = includes inhibiting mode
  • D = suitable for high risk task areas

Duration in minutes

  • 10 minutes
  • 60 minutes
  • 120 minutes
  • 180 minutes


Do you need a certificate for emergency lighting?

A certificate for your emergency lighting is a requirement under BS EN 50172:2004, 6.2. and needs to be renewed every year. You also need to carry out regular testing of your emergency lighting, with daily, monthly and annual tests specified for different elements in your system.


Who can test and certify emergency lighting? 

Basic daily testing (which applies to those with a central battery system) consists of making a visual check to ensure the system is operational. BS EN 50172 / BS 5266-8 states that monthly ‘short duration’ checks be carried out, to make sure that your system is working, while an annual check should be conducted to make sure that your system will function for the full duration as recommended by the British Standard.

These tests can be carried out by a ‘competent’ person within your organisation (i.e. someone who has the experience and knowledge to perform the task to an acceptable standard), but your equipment can only be certified by a third-party certificated/BAFE-registered operator.

Here at Scutum London, we can design, supply, install and maintain high-quality emergency lighting that will both help you meet your fire safety obligations and also help occupants evacuate your premises safely in the event of a fire. We can also provide the necessary certification to demonstrate that your emergency lighting system meets acceptable standards.

Get in touch with us now to find out more.

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About Scutum London

Scutum London is a leading expert in fire safety and security solutions for businesses and organisations located across South East England, including London and Surrey.

From fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire risk assessments to access control, CCTV and intruder alarm systems – and a lot more besides – we offer a comprehensive range of products and services designed to keep you, your business and your staff and visitors safe.

With decades of industry experience to call on, we’re proud to hold accreditations from leading trade associations and bodies such as British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE), the British Fire Consortium, the Fire Industry Association (FIA) and Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).

If you’d like to find out more about Scutum London, get in touch with our friendly team or explore our products and services on our site.


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