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The Legal Column

17 February 2012

The experts at Workplace Law address your legislative and compliance issues.

Quiet / Faith room
Q: Are organisations obliged to provide a Quiet or Faith room for contemplation or prayer?

A: You should endeavour to provide a room for prayer if you are able to. If you do not have the space, you should consider the possibility of allowing the use of another room at certain times which may also used for other purposes, such as a meeting room.

If you do not have the ability to provide such a room, and you have made reasonable attempts to accommodate the request but are unable to do so, there is nothing else you can do.

Refusing an employee when a suitable place does exist may leave you open to allegations of discrimination.

Emergency lights
Q: How often should emergency lights be tested in commercial office buildings?

A: Guidance on fire safety for offices and shops published by HM Government states the following advice:

All emergency escape lighting systems should be regularly tested and properly maintained to an appropriate standard. Most existing systems will need to be manually tested. However, some modern systems have self testing facilities to reduce routine checks to a minimum.

Depending on your type of installation you should be able to carry out most of the routine tests yourself. The test method will vary. If you are not sure how to carry out these tests you should contact your supplier or other competent person.

Test facilities often take the form of a fishtail key inserted in a special switch either near the main fuse board or adjacent to relevant light switches.

Typically testing would include:

 A daily visual check of any central controls.
 Monthly function test by operating the test facility for a period sufficient to ensure that each emergency lamp illuminates.
 An annual full discharge test.

Particular care needs to be taken following a full discharge test. Batteries typically take 24 hours to recharge and the premises should not be reoccupied until the emergency lighting system is fully functioning unless alternative arrangements have been made. It is also good practice to keep a record of tests.

Fire extinguishers
Q: We have our fire extinguishers serviced on an annual basis by our supplier but I have been told that we need to check them every month. We do not have the resources to do this. Is this a legal requirement?

A: All portable fire extinguishers will require periodic inspection, maintenance and testing. Depending on local conditions such as the likelihood of vandalism or the environment where extinguishers are located, carry out brief checks to ensure that they remain serviceable. In normal conditions a monthly check should be enough; this check should be about the external condition of the equipment, good state of repair, not been discharged and in the correct place, not more than that. Maintenance by a competent person should be carried out annually.

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