Should a power failure occur in your workplace, emergency lighting is expected to kick in and help workers and others find their way to safety.
But emergency lighting doesn’t always work when it’s needed. Consider the case of a two-year-old emergency lighting system at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA, which failed to activate during two power outages in 2010 and 2011.
Thousands of workers, including people handling hazardous materials and heavy equipment, were plunged into darkness. The emergency lighting didn’t work because voltage drops had drained the batteries that should have powered it.
The above scenario shows how important it is to check emergency lighting system regularly to ensure that people will be able to evacuate your workplace during an emergency.
Emergency lighting not only helps workers and visitors find their way out of a building during an emergency, it also provides sufficient lighting to allow time for potentially hazardous processes or machinery to be safely shut down before the last person leaves.
The National Fire Protection Life Safety Code (Standard 101) states that emergency lighting should be able to provide sufficient illumination for between 60 and 90 minutes following a power failure.
The code recommends that employers should be testing their emergency lighting systems for a minimum of 30 seconds every 30 days. And an annual test should also be performed to ensure that emergency lighting remains functional for up to 90 minutes.
For the monthly test, the “test” button on each unit needs to be pressed and held for 30 seconds to ensure that the light is functioning properly. If a light flickers, there could be a problem with wiring and the unit should be checked by a professional.
For the annual emergency lighting test, the power must be interrupted by throwing a circuit breaker to see if the lighting comes on and stays on brightly for 90 minutes. If the lighting is not functioning properly it needs to be serviced or replaced.
Workplaces should be documenting that emergency lighting checks have been performed monthly and annually. The log book should contain the tester’s name, test dates and times, test results, and comments on failures and to whom the situation was referred for repair/replacement.
Don’t wait for an emergency to find out that emergency lighting in your workplace is inoperative and people are panicking because they can’t see their way to an emergency exit.