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The provision of emergency lighting is a legal requirement in almost all building other than private residential dwellings.

The relevant legal instrument is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Section 14 (2) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) states:


(g) emergency routes and exits must be indicated by signs; and


(h) emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.

The RRO (2005) is legally enforceable and the penalties for breach include fines and imprisonment.


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 states:

Section 17 (1) of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) states:


In order to safeguard the safety of relevant persons the responsible person must ensure that the ……equipment and devices provided …..under this Order…… are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.

The most certain way to ensure compliance with the RRO with respect to emergency lighting is to follow the relevant British Standard, which is BS5266-1:2016.

Section 12 (1) of BS5266-1:2016 states:

12 Routine inspections and tests

Emergency lighting systems should be inspected and tested at regular intervals in accordance with BS EN 50172.


NOTE 1 The testing may be performed manually, but if the responsible person is unable to ensure that this will be done, it is advisable to use an automatic test system to perform the tests at the required intervals.


Functional operation should be checked at least every month (see 13.1). 
Testing for full rated duration should be performed on each luminaire at least annually.

So, the legal basis for emergency lighting is very clear – it is a legal requirement.

Emergency lighting testing is not, strictly speaking, a legal requirement. In theory, the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, section 17 could be met by some other system of maintenance that did not involve testing, but no such system has been devised, let alone been enshrined in a British Standard.

Therefore, most people who are knowledgeable in this field treat emergency lighting testing as though it were a legal requirement.


BS5266 recommends that emergency lighting testing should be done automatically if the responsible person cannot ensure that it will be done manually.

There are two main ways to automate emergency lighting testing. For more details, please click on the links below:

  • Self test
  • Addressable self test

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