OSHA Lighting Standards for Emergency Egress Lighting
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require a building’s exit paths to be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route. This means that emergency egress lighting must operate reliably and effectively during low visibility evacuations. To ensure the correct operation of backup lights, building owners should adhere to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) emergency egress light requirements—a group of standards that OSHA has co-opted. Below are emergency egress light requirements from the NFPA Life Safety Code.
The Four Aspects of Proper Egress Lighting
The NFPA establishes four criteria to ensure the reliability and effectiveness of backup lighting: performance, operation, power source, and testing. These criteria contribute to OSHA lighting standards.
The Life Safety Code requires emergency egress lights to provide at least ninety minutes of illumination after commercial power becomes unavailable—a period of time that should be sufficient for evacuating a large building. To provide adequate lighting, egress lights must burn at a minimum of 10.8 lux. During testing, illumination should be measured by placing a light meter at floor level.
The Life Safety Code requires backup lights to operate automatically. If they are generator powered, this means that a building’s emergency power supply system (EPSS) must feature an automatic transfer switch (a.k.a. “make before break” switch). Emergency lights must be able to operate automatically without receiving a manual reset.
Proper Power Source
The Life Safety Code states that egress lights can be battery or generator powered. Batteries must be rechargeable and compliant with National Electric Code (NEC) requirements for batteries, and generators that power backup lighting must be compliant with NFPA Standard 110.
The Life Safety Code lists two methods for testing egress lights. The first method requires a monthly 30-second test of generator-powered lighting. The second method requires an annual 90-minute test of battery-powered lighting.
Penalties for Noncompliant Buildings
OSHA requires most commercial buildings to adhere to the NFPA standards listed above. For noncompliance with OSHA lighting standards, building owners face immediate fines that can be financially crippling. For example, a willful code violation can cost a building owner up to $70,000. When the violation causes the death of a worker, the owner can be fined up to $250,000, plus receive prison time. When a corporation’s willful violation causes the death of a worker, a $500,000 fine could be levied.
Meeting OSHA requirements takes time and money, but not meeting them could result in significant fines and even prison time. If your building has egress lighting problems that constitute code violations, fix them now. Remember to backup egress lighting with photoluminescent egress markings.
At GloBrite, we sell industry leading photoluminescent exit signs, fire safety signs, and egress striping. Unlike backup lighting that could fail due to generator failure or falling debris, photoluminescent egress markings are self-sustaining and contain no breakable parts.
To learn more about the importance of photoluminescent egress striping and signage, call us today.