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Emergency lighting and the FSO

In a building emergency, especially fire, fast panic-free evacuation is absolutely essential. This is why UK legislation demands reliable, good quality emergency lighting to ensure that escape routes are properly illuminated so that people can see to get to a place of safety.

LED-powered recessed open area emergency luminaire by P4 displays; one of a number of emergency lighting manufacturers associated with ICEL that comply with FSO requirements

ICEL, the emergency lighting arm of the Lighting Industry Association (LIA), explains why compliance with the Fire Safety Order (FSO) is essential for users of affected premises, and how ICEL can assist.

The FSO places considerable responsibility on owners and managers of non-domestic premises to demonstrate that their premises are safe. When a risk assessment shows the need for emergency lighting, users must be able to demonstrate that appropriate equipment has been chosen and used to provide adequate light levels.

The guides to the FSO recommend that emergency lighting should be designed, installed and maintained to the guidance given in British Standard Code of Practice BS 5266-1, which calls for products used to meet their appropriate standards. It is essential, therefore, that responsible building owners and managers can demonstrate compliance with this legislation.

Many such building owners and managers may be unsure of their responsibilities in this respect, so ICEL provides advice, including how to ensure compliance with the regulations, such as the FSO. ICEL advice (and approval of products and manufacturers in some cases) takes the risk out of specifying emergency lighting and ensures that the lighting performance of the luminaires has been independently confirmed. ICEL and BAFE – the non-profit making organisations dedicated to improving standards in fire protection – can assist such users with approved products and design information. Together, these organisations can assist designers, installers, maintainers and users by giving third party accreditation of their competence.

While many building owners and managers have taken ICEL advice such that the emergency lighting systems installed in their premises comply with FSO requirements, there are many others that have not taken this course of action, and whose installed emergency lighting systems do not necessarily comply. Indeed, UK Government statistics on Fire Safety Audits have estimated that around 40% of premises are likely to be unsatisfactory.

Lack of an emergency lighting system, or use of an inadequate system, or having a system without acceptable test records, mean that building owners and managers could be judged by FSO auditors as not being in accordance with the legislation. This could result in fines and/or prosecutions, but more importantly, it puts occupiers and users at potential risk if there was a need to evacuate the premises in an emergency.

Depending upon the seriousness of any such problem, the Fire Authorities have three courses of action:
• They can issue an enforcement notice detailing the changes needed and a time scale
• They can issue a prohibition order that restricts use of the premises
• If the issue is serious, the Fire Authority will take action through the courts.

To avoid such actions by authorities and to protect occupants, building owners and managers must be able to demonstrate that their premises are safe and that they meet the recommendations given in the guides to the FSO (particularly pages 3-8). These recommend that suppliers of services and equipment are third party certified to assist building owners and managers in demonstrating compliance to the fire authority.

Emergency lighting manufacturers belonging to ICEL are committed to producing equipment to the latest standards and provide information for it to be designed and installed to BS 5266-1, therefore assisting users in complying with the FSO.

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