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Competent installation

31 July 2012

Bernard Pratley explains how the new BAFE 203-4 scheme will help premises owners and facilities managers to demonstrate compliance with the emergency lighting legislation.

Current fire safety legislation imposes responsibilities on the owners and operators of premises. In the past, the Fire Precautions Act required such people to obtain from their fire authority a fire certificate that called for prescriptive compliance with a number of standards. They then had to maintain the emergency lighting system and show that provided they did not change the emergency lighting system’s use, it was compliant with the regulations.

Today’s fire safety legislation is more onerous and comprehensive, as building operators must now produce a risk assessment that covers all aspects of fire safety and the way in which the building is used. In addition, it must be demonstrated that the fire precautions are appropriate to protect the building’s occupants. Building operators must also ensure that the fire safety equipment, which includes emergency lighting and fire alarms, is adequate for the task. For this, they are likely to need help from competent engineers in order to cover the following aspects of a building’s emergency lighting system:
? The design of new emergency lighting installations and the checking of existing systems
? The installation of the emergency lighting equipment
? The commissioning and handover of the emergency lighting system
? The maintenance of the emergency lighting system to ensure that it is fully operational at all times.

Unfortunately, informal evaluation of emergency lighting installations in a large number of buildings has shown that many existing installations are deficient. Typically, such deficiencies include emergency lighting systems not being fully inspected to ensure that they met risk assessment requirements. It was also clear that some emergency lighting systems had been developed piecemeal over a long period, so that many were either sub-standard or designed to old requirements, and had not been subsequently updated. Often, emergency lighting was installed without appropriate testing facilities, making monthly function tests and the annual full rated testing difficult or impossible to perform safely.

Other non-compliances typically include emergency lighting luminaires being wired on the wrong circuit so that they would not protect against a local supply failure. Also, records of emergency lighting luminaire locations and design were either not initially provided – as is required for compliance - or have been lost.

Initial testing was often carried out by the contractor, who may not always have been able to complete all elements of it, or did not fully record the results. Typically, the building operators or facilities managers concerned were not experts, and could reasonably have expected that the initial tests would be conducted fully, but that was not always the case.

Moreover, a lack of knowledge about modern automatic emergency lighting test systems often prevent them from being considered for installation, even when their use would simplify building operators’ duties. Finally, remedial action ordered was sometimes incorrectly carried out, and resulting changes to the emergency lighting system were not always recorded.

All of the above examples are contrary to the requirements of the guidance documents of the Fire Safety Order (FSO). In addition, the FSO states: ‘Third-party certification schemes for fire protection products and related services are an effective means of providing the fullest possible assurances, offering a level of quality, reliability and safety that non-certificated products may lack’.

The BAFE scheme
One such scheme – the BAFE SP 203-4 - covers the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of emergency lighting systems. It is delivered through BAFE-licensed, UKAS-approved certification bodies, and it recognises the competencies required.

BAFE SP 203-4 provides the assurance for emergency lighting systems referred to by the FSO as it complements the scheme for fire alarms and gives building operators confidence that registered services suppliers will be trained and experienced with the knowledge and tools to ensure that emergency lighting systems are appropriate for the applications.

The building operator’s Responsible Person should ensure that a risk assessment identifies the requirements of the emergency lighting, detailing the particular hazards in the building concerned, as well as to the occupants to be protected. A BAFE registered system designer will then use the risk assessment to ensure that the assessed system provides adequate emergency lighting in those areas of the building needing to be protected. The system designer’s guidance comes from the BS Code of Practice BS 5266-1, and luminaires complying with BS EN 60598-2-22 will be selected. This ensures that good quality products are correctly located. New installations can be readily designed using manufacturers’ data, but checking the performance of existing installations requires more training, skill and experience.

A BAFE registered installer will determine that the designer’s plans are followed and that emergency lighting luminaires will be correctly interfaced with the normal lighting to ensure that they operate when required and that testing facilities are appropriate for the installation. In addition, a BAFE registered company that provides commissioning and handover services will ensure that the system meets design requirements, and operates as required by the risk assessment.

The commissioning tests form the initial result to start the test log. Values include cable volt drop measurements and end of discharge voltages of central systems so that subsequent tests can compare values against the original readings.

As the ongoing point of contact, the BAFE registered company will advise customers on changes in requirements and the operational condition of their system for the review of its risk assessment.

Bernard Pratley is Director at ICEL, the emergency lighting arm of the Lighting Industry Association (LIA)

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