In 2005 the Fire Regulatory Reform Order was introduced in the UK, handing overall responsibility for the on-going compliance of the emergency lighting scheme to the occupant of the commercial premises.  Previously this was the responsibility of the fire officer.

Failure to provide and maintain a compliant emergency lighting scheme within commercial premises can result in prosecution with a fine and/or imprisonment. Indeed, since the introduction of the Fire Regulatory Reform people have received jail terms for failure to provide compliant emergency lighting.

Emergency Lighting systems are a safety related product; their correct performance can only be assured by systematic testing and regular maintenance.

Ensuring you have an operating and compliant system is more crucial than ever and it is important to understand how to maintain your current system or highlight critical requirements when sourcing a new system. In line with the requirements of BS:EN 50172 this would involve a monthly functional test and an annual full rated duration test.

Conventional techniques for testing are reliant upon manual testing procedures and are highly susceptible to neglect or human error. Although necessary, manual testing of emergency lighting is not without its disadvantages. It relies solely on the maintenance/facilities engineer(s) to undertake the test, document accurately and concisely the results of the test, log and report any faults and arrange servicing thereof. Furthermore, any tests should be carried out at a period of low risk so as to maintain the integrity of the system as the batteries re-charge. This invariably means out of hours work, resulting in more cost.

These limitations of conventional techniques can be overcome by automating the testing process. However, Automatic Test Systems (ATS) still require manual intervention to correct faults when they are identified and procedures should be put in place for such intervention.  It is commonplace in the absence of a dedicated facilities or maintenance team for the building manager to sub-contract a specialist risk assessor to undertake the test. There is a cost to this however and it does not always guarantee 100% accuracy.

Lighting floor plans, log books, O&M manuals all need to be made available in order to support the procedure. Automatic Test Systems (ATS) are now available and can form part of the Building Management System (BMS) to undertake the emergency lighting tests.

Traditionally, certain emergency lighting control gear manufacturers have included auto or self-test devices within their modules in order to enable automatic testing. The scheduling of these tests however is random and should be designed to test at periods of low risk. Although a major step forward from non-testing modules, this does inevitably mean that certain emergency luminaires will be testing randomly and not always at the most convenient time.

To effectively ensure schedule testing and monitoring of the emergency lighting, the ATS can be connected to a communication interface such as Digital Addressable Lighting Interface (DALI). DALI utilises a Master (ATS) and Slave (Device) inter-communication to allow a range of software commands to be sent to and received from the control gear on the same interface via forward and backward transmission.

As well as undertaking luminaire schedule tests reliably they also notify the building operator of any failures at the earliest opportunity. The ATS can be programmed to undertake the tests at periods of low risk or at prescribed intervals agreed by the building operator.  This means that scheduled testing can be programmed in accordance with BS: EN 50172. In addition the ATS performs a number of other functions in accordance with IEC 62034.

Whether you currently have or are considering a non-AutoTest, Automatic Test or DALI emergency lighting system, each have their own benefits and disadvantages depending on your site and installation requirements.

For more information on manual and automatic test systems please contact Mackwell’s technical team on 01922 458 255.