Friday, April 27, 2012

Monthly Testing of Emergency Lights


Section 1910.36 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires among the other things: In every building or structure equipped for artificial illumination adequate and reliable illumination shall be provided for all exit facilities.

Testing Requirements

Testing requirements for emergency lights are defined in NFPA - 101 Life Safety Code Section 7.9.3 Periodic Testing of Emergency Lighting Equipment.

This section includes provisions for equipment that must be tested manually as well as self-testing / self-diagnostic equipment. For equipment that requires manual testing, a functional test shall be conducted on every required emergency lighting system at 30-day intervals for a minimum of 30 seconds. An annual test shall be conducted for the 1-1/2 hour duration. Equipment shall be fully operational for the duration of the test. Written records of visual inspections and tests shall be kept by the owner for inspection by the authority having jurisdiction."

It has been our experience that the primary failure mode for emergency lights involves the batteries. The minimum 30 second test duration is important because many times a light with bad batteries will illuminate initially when the test button is pressed, but fail within 30 seconds. Also, the focus of the 1-1/2 hour annual test is to determine if your batteries are strong enough to illuminate during an extended emergency period.


As described in the paragraph above, 30 second functional testing shall be conducted at 30 day intervals.

Functional testing shall be conducted monthly with a minimum of 3 weeks and a maximum of 5 weeks between tests.

1-1/2 hour duration testing shall be conducted annually.

Testing Instructions

The following is an example of how the task instructions may be written in your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

  1. Visually inspect emergency light for signs of damage.
  2. Press test button and hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Verify that emergency light illuminates for entire time test button is pressed.
  4. Record inspection results.
  5. Initiate corrective action for deficiencies identified during inspection.
Required Tools and Supplies

Barcode scanner to quickly record inspection results
Stick to press hard to reach test buttons (optional)
Step ladder (optional)

Labor Time Requirements

It should take less than 1 minute to actually conduct a monthly functional test. However, the following must be considered when estimating labor time requirements for conducting monthly testing:

  • Labor estimates should include travel time to each emergency light.
  • In our experience, 5 minutes per emergency light, including travel time, is a good initial estimate for most commercial buildings. This estimate can be refined using actual data after the testing has been conducted a few times.
  • If a step ladder is required the labor estimates will need to be higher than with no step ladder.
  • Emergency light testing may also be combined with Lighted Exit Sign testing, which has very similar requirements.
  • Some organizations assign this testing to electricians, however it can be conducted by any conscientious employee who has been trained to perform the testing correctly.
Recording Test Results Using FieldDataPro

Managing the testing of emergency lights scattered around a large facility or campus can be challenging. FieldDataPro can help you use barcode technology to track when each unit is inspected and more importantly, identify units that are not inspected or have deficiencies that need to be corrected.

When collecting emergency light test data with FieldDataPro you can use either the Detailed method or the Pass/Fail method. Either method makes effective management of the testing easy and eliminates paperwork and manual record keeping.

With the Detailed method, the tester records the status of each inspection point for each unit as shown in the image below.

With the Pass/Fail method, the tester creates a timestamped record indicating that the device was tested, and whether it passed inspection or was found to have deficiencies.

For a more detailed description of how FieldDataPro can help you manage Safety Inspection data, see this blog post (how it works).

Call us at (919) 323-3703 to set up a demonstration.

For more information, email us at


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