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How Often should Emergency Lighting be Tested?

Protecting your staff and customers should be at the forefront of your mind. Naturally, the UK has stringent rules regarding emergency lighting—and particularly testing. If you fail to comply, your company could be fined thousands of pounds.


At Wells Electrical Contractors, our NICEIC-approved contractors have provided testing services to thousands of businesses nationwide to enable them to stay in compliance. But aside from compliance with the law, standby lighting saves lives.

So, how can you ensure you’re testing your emergency lighting correctly?

How often should emergency lights be checked?

Before discussing formal testing, basic visual checks performed daily are a good habit to get into. Any designated person can do this basic walk-through, which consists of checking to make sure lights aren’t too dirty or obscured.


However, if your emergency lighting system uses a central battery, you must check the indicator light daily. Most modern emergency lighting systems use separate batteries for each light, meaning you’re not required to perform these daily checks. Even so, it’s still recommended that you do a visual check daily for peace of mind.

How often do emergency lights need to be tested?

Let’s start with the basic legislation detailing emergency lighting installation and testing. In the UK, standby lighting is required to comply with BS 5266-1, stating every qualifying building must have adequate illumination to aid in escape and identifying firefighting equipment.


In practice, this legal requirement covers practically every commercial and industrial setting with few exceptions, including:

  • Offices
  • Shopping centres
  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Entertainment venues
  • Pubs
  • Nightclubs
  • Factories

How often you must test your emergency lighting varies based on the system. For example, different testing frequencies apply to non-maintained and maintained emergency lighting. Generally, this can get confusing, so the rule of thumb is that lighting should be tested monthly and annually.

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Monthly emergency lighting tests

Monthly emergency lighting tests are called “flick tests” and are short functional tests. They simulate the failure of the mains power supply. Passing this test means each lamp should switch on and provide sufficient illumination.

Businesses can carry out these tests using a fish key. The fish key, also known as a secure device key, can temporarily turn off the main power supply without putting occupants at risk. Each test should be recorded, and any faults should be recorded and addressed.

Although it’s not a legal requirement to outsource monthly testing to a professional, it’s recommended that firms do this anyway. Outsourcing saves time and headaches, and professionals can quickly spot when you’re in non-compliance.

For example, luminaries must be clean to pass the test and provide sufficient illumination. Can you spot the difference between sufficient and insufficient illumination? Most non-experts can’t, meaning your company could inadvertently fail a surprise audit.

Is monthly emergency lighting testing a legal requirement?

Flick tests must be carried out by law. There’s no getting around this fact. Unlike the daily test, this basic functional test is required to remain in compliance. Furthermore, businesses must record these tests within a special logbook, including any faults that were detected.


Plus, if any faults are found, businesses are required to take remedial action as soon as possible. Likewise, an auditor will look for evidence that remedial action was taken.

Annual emergency lighting tests


The annual or “full-duration test” is also a legal requirement of emergency lighting and consists of more in-depth testing than flick tests. Unlike monthly tests, a qualified professional, such as Wells Electrical Contractors, must carry out these.


Full-duration tests last for three hours and involve cutting the primary lighting circuits. Each emergency light must remain switched on and provide sufficient illumination for the entire period to pass.


In many cases, these tests are done alongside fire alarm servicing, which can be done at the same time as the emergency lighting test.

What time of day is best to perform an emergency lighting test?

Many business owners struggle with scheduling a suitable time for an emergency lighting test. They want to minimise the disruption to their business while remaining compliant.

No law states that you must carry out the test at a certain time of year or a specific time of day. It’s entirely up to you to find a convenient time. Let’s discuss the issues involved in emergency lighting testing during the day or night.


Day testing vs. night testing


Daytime testing is often the most convenient from a testing perspective because you can monitor the process, and it’s often easier to find a technician who can carry out the test. Plus, it’s safer for everybody inside because even if there’s an issue with a light, your employees can still see where they’re going.


Why some business owners avoid daytime testing include:


· Disruption: Cutting the primary power supply can prevent you from conducting your usual business operations. In the context of a larger business, this could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds lost.

· Testing Difficulties: Testing can be challenging during the day, especially during the summer. If bright lights are shining through the windows, it can be tough to see if a light is preventing sufficient illumination.


On the other hand, testing at night is more hazardous because if the lighting system isn’t working, everyone could be plunged into darkness. Businesses must take extra health and safety precautions if testing at night, even though it’s often the least disruptive option.


Generally, it’s best to get the best of both worlds. Scheduling your test at the end of the working day minimises disruption while allowing some natural light to avert potential health and safety violations.


But what if your business operates 24/7, and there’s no convenient time to initiate the test?


In this case, there’s no getting around disruption. We recommend analysing your activity patterns to find the least problematic time for your annual emergency lighting test. At Wells Electrical Contractors, we can operate 24/7, enabling us to work around your schedule while providing the in-depth testing required by law.


To learn more about hiring our experienced technicians for your emergency lighting tests, contact us now. Our in-depth guide to emergency lighting also tells you everything else you’d need to know to stay compliant.

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With a combined 65 years’ experience working nationwide, Wells Electrical Contractors are experts in electrical installation, maintenance and energy saving from conception to hand over in each project. Our engineers deliver the best electrical solutions to businesses in the UK and Ireland.

We understand that no two customers’ electrical needs are the same, and when it comes to making important decisions on upgrades, emergency repairs or installations, the more information you have the better. That’s why we offer a comprehensive range of solutions, as well as the knowledge to help customers make the right decisions.

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