This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

The Legal Column - June 12

29 June 2012

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

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.

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; and
? an annual full discharge test.
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.

Guarding of stairs

Q: Could you please confirm whether Approved Doc K sec 1.29 Guarding of Stairs [] must be applied retrospectively or if not is there a similar retrospective requirement under Building Regulations?

A: Under the Building Regulations you do not have to do anything retrospectively unless you are having building work carried out and the stairs in questions are subject to the scope of the work. The planning authority will not impose anything. However, if you, or an enforcing body, feel that stairs are insufficiently guarded and present a risk to the health and safety of your employees or others then you might be seen to be in breach of health and safety regulations. Your risk assessment should identify the potential of the hazard causing harm.

PAT testing

Q: How often should PCs, monitors and keyboards be tested; should it be annually? What about other electrical equipment?

A: The HSE has recently announced revised guidance on electrical testing which says that it is a myth that portable electrical appliances in a low-risk environment, such as an office, need to have a portable appliance test (PAT) every year. The law simply requires employers to ensure electrical equipment is maintained in order to prevent danger – it doesn't state what needs to be done or how often. For more information go to and download the free guidance.

If you have a question that you would like addressed in this column please email it to the editor at

Contact Details and Archive...

Print this page | E-mail this page