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Is it a Legal Requirement to Test Emergency Lighting?

Emergency lighting is critical to protecting everyone in your workplace at any given time. These lights operate independently from the mains power circuit, enabling everybody to exit the premises in a safe and orderly manner.

Although most businesses see the value of installing an emergency lighting system, many are unaware of their legal obligations. Typically, emergency lighting isn’t just legally mandated, but the law also requires regular testing to ensure they remain in good working order.

This guide discusses your legal obligations and the best way to ensure continued compliance.

What does emergency lighting testing include?

Emergency lighting testing is a comprehensive inspection of your entire setup. How the test is conducted depends on whether you need a monthly or annual test.

You should always call a professional to ensure that your emergency lighting is of the required standard, as current UK regulations dictate. 

As part of your test, a technician will ensure that:

  • Each light is fully illuminated

  • That your lights are charging

  • That the illumination is sufficient


Furthermore, our engineers can provide tailored advice on improving your emergency lighting system and any urgent action that may need to be taken. As a start, our full guide on emergency lighting may help you.

Is emergency lighting testing a legal requirement?

Current UK regulations state that all emergency lighting must be switched on and off at least once a month to ensure they remain operational. You don’t need to call in a professional for this, but it’s strongly recommended to guarantee your compliance.

However, a competent person must carry out the annual three-hour test. In other words, you will need a qualified professional to conduct this test.

Various laws apply to emergency lighting testing, including:


·  The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

·  Building Regulations 2000

·  Workplace Directive 89/654

·  The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999


Businesses must take their obligations seriously because the penalties can be substantial, even for a first-time breach.

For example, an Abingdon hotel owner was recently fined £20,000 and £3,000 in costs because an inspection revealed that their emergency lighting systems were not working, among other serious fire safety issues.

In short, regular testing is a small price to pay to avoid costly breaches.

Which businesses have a legal requirement to test emergency lighting?

Any business that requires emergency lighting by law must comply with the same testing requirements unless stated otherwise due to the type of lighting.

In the UK, businesses follow the umbrella standard BS 5266-1, the code of practice dictating the installation and maintenance of emergency lighting.

Firstly, all commercial and industrial premises will require emergency lighting testing. Public buildings are also included, such as hospitals, schools, care homes and government buildings. This also extends to some private properties, such as multi-story buildings. 

  • Note that many construction sites may require temporary emergency lighting too.

What emergency lighting standards do businesses need to adhere to?

BS-5266 is intentionally designed to be general to cover as much ground as possible. The two main guidelines that require businesses to act are:


1. “Every workplace must have suitable and sufficient emergency lighting.”

2. “Emergency lighting should be provided and maintained in any room where employees are at risk if the regular lights should fail.”


In practice, this means that your emergency lighting system must provide sufficient lighting, which your technician can advise you on, and the emergency lighting system must cover all the correct areas and be functional at all times.

The results will be included in your fire risk assessment as part of your annual testing requirement, which the Fire and Rescue Service will then evaluate.

How often should an emergency lighting system legally be tested?

Testing frequency can vary depending on the lighting system you have in place. While this may sound confusing, the best way to manage emergency lighting system testing is to use the three-phase model.

The three-phase model works like so:


Daily Testing – Check for basic functionality. A simple visual check of all lights to ensure they are illuminated. A designated person can carry this out.

Monthly Testing – Monthly tests are short functional tests using your fish key. Just switch the main power off and examine the lights. Check the casings for any dirt or signs of damage. Once you restore the main power, your lights should automatically begin recharging. The results should be noted in a logbook. While this can be done in-house, calling in a professional is best.

Annual Testing – All premises with emergency lighting systems must schedule an annual test with a qualified professional. These tests last three to four hours and simulate the mains power being cut. To pass the test, your emergency lighting must provide sufficient illumination for the entire duration.


Some businesses may also conduct comprehensive testing every six months for liability purposes. This is smart because it displays your commitment to health and safety and lets you stay on top of preventative maintenance.

Regarding monthly and annual tests, deciding when to conduct these tests can be challenging for many businesses. We recommend considering the following factors:


Risk – Testing your emergency systems means depleting the batteries. Aim to test your lights at a relatively low-risk time, such as outside regular work hours.

Effectiveness – Ensure that the test can deliver reliable results. For example, testing in the middle of the day can make gauging your lighting’s illumination tough.

Convenience – Think about the day-to-day disruption to usual operations. This is why many hire a service to conduct these tests at night.

Book your Emergency Lighting Tests in

How can Wells Electrical help businesses with emergency lighting tests?

Wells Electrical has over 65 years of experience testing emergency lighting nationwide. Whether you’re a school, hospital or retail space, our experienced technicians can conduct rigorous testing in full compliance with the latest UK regulations at any hour of the day or night.

Our NICEIC-approved contractors can design and install emergency lighting systems from scratch while helping you stay on top of maintenance and cut costs.

For the best in testing, get in touch with Wells Electrical today.

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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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