Emergency light testing frequency

Emergency lighting usually takes effect automatically to provide sufficient levels of light for a minimum period of time in the event of sudden failure or loss of mains power supply. It is critical in facilitating safe exit and evacuation from a building with minimal panic.

Whether the emergency lighting power supply is self-contained or via a central battery source, effective maintenance, servicing and testing of all emergency escape lighting and standby lighting is required to ensure to ensure continued effectiveness of systems.

How often do emergency lights need to be tested?

Emergency lights usually contain a small battery and are connected to the building’s main power supply. The mains supply should provide a constant charge to the battery so that in the event of emergency power failure, the lighting switches to the battery source and continues to function, providing light to allow for safe exit from the building.

The following tests are to be carried out, as a minimum, to check effective operation of all emergency lighting units:

Monthly emergency lighting tests: ‘Flick Tests’

Under BS EN 50172:2004 / BS 5266-8:2004, short, functional tests are required of emergency lighting systems on a monthly basis.

The mains power supply to the lighting unit should be switched off and all luminaires and signs checked to ensure that they are present and working correctly. Any defects should be logged for immediate repair.

In practical terms, it may not be necessary or efficient to carry out a single, full system test of all units at the same time. Provided each luminaire is checked once a month, flick testing can be conducted via a testing schedule.

Annual emergency lighting tests: ‘Discharge Tests’

Full duration tests are legally required on an annual basis to test the emergency lighting system activates correctly following loss of power.

To test, the mains supply should be switched off and the emergency lighting unit checked to ensure functioning for the entire rated period for the battery (e.g. 3 hours). The lights should remain illuminated at the required level of light for the full duration of this period. If the lights fail during this period, the back-up battery should be replaced immediately.

Issues or defects should be logged and remedied immediately.

After testing, the luminaire should be returned to its stand-by state. Discharge tests should undertaken outside normal working hours or during lower risk periods to allow batteries time to recharge in case of a genuine emergency.

Daily inspections – for central, back up systems only

These are visual inspections of emergency lighting systems with a central battery source. This does not apply to standard emergency lighting with self-contained back-up batteries in each unit. A check should be made of the central power supply indicators to verify the system remains operational.

Best practice tips for emergency lighting systems

The following can help to maintain safe and functioning emergency light units:

  • A responsible, competent person should be appointed by the owner or occupier of the building to ensure continued compliance.
  • An up to date inventory of all emergency lighting units should be maintained, including emergency escape lighting, standby lighting, open area lighting and high risk task area lighting.
  • A regular programme of checks, servicing and maintenance and testing exercises should be scheduled and conducted for all emergency lighting and exit signs.
  • A safety log book should be used to record all periodic checks, servicing, maintenance and testing activities.
  • Spares of consumables should be maintained and made available for immediate use e.g. replacement lamps, batteries.
  • The responsible person should have the authority and means to instruct works to rectify defects immediately and maintain correct operation of the system.

What are the standards for emergency lighting to adhere to?

Standards BS 5266-8:2004 and BS EN 50172:2004 prescribe the testing of emergency lighting units and emergency lighting installation is covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) 2005 Order (FSO).

Do you need help with emergency light testing?

At Emelec, we are highly experienced in emergency light testing and inspections. We can advise perform required testing of all emergency light units and advise on best practice for testing and maintenance schedules. For help and advice with your emergency light testing, contact Emelec’s team of specialist electrical engineers.


This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute direct advice.