The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) ensures that all buildings are accessible and user-friendly to those with a wide range of disabilities. Stuart Davies, Marketing Manager of Hochiki Europe explains the importance of having an emergency lighting system that is DDA compliant.
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) makes it unlawful for building owners and service providers to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability. It was first introduced in 1996, but it wasn’t until 2004 that reasonable adjustments to the physical features of buildings had be put in place. As with every other aspect of a building’s infrastructure, this also applies to emergency lighting.
The DDA defines a disabled person as someone who has ‘a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities’.
There is, however, a certain amount of confusion about the scope of the DDA, as there is no legal definition of a reasonable adjustment. It depends on the kind of service provided, an adjustment’s cost and practicality, and the size of the service provider.
Also, while they are often referred to simultaneously, the DDA and Part M of the Building Regulations are distinct from each other. Part M is relevant to architects and contractors and gives the definitive specification of a building’s features which provide access for disabled people. Part M is, therefore, a useful reference point for DDA compliance.
Law and order
While there may be a lack of specific guidelines in the DDA itself, there is one standard which is very clear in terms of what is required when it comes to emergency lighting provision. BS5266-1:2005 is the code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises, and offers guidance on the positioning of emergency luminaires, minimum height levels, acceptable glare levels and minimum routine testing schedules. The guidelines within BS5266-1:2005 are compliant with the content of the DDA.
The introduction of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 brought together all the elements of fire safety together. It places the onus on a designated ‘responsible person’ within an organisation to carry out risk assessments to identify, manage and reduce the risk of fire. This includes making sure that the emergency lighting system is fit for purpose.
UK fire safety legislation states that people in premises must be able to find their way to a place of total safety if there is a fire, by using escape routes that have enough lighting.
If an area is larger than 60m2, emergency lighting and signage should be installed. When designing an emergency lighting system, luminaires should be installed at points of emphasis. These are mandatory locations which feature specific hazards, safety equipment and signs.
BS5266-1:2005 states the maximum viewing distances and luminance conditions for safety signs. Signs are either internally or externally illuminated and the maximum viewing distances for internally illuminated signs is 200 times the panel height, and 100 times the panel height for externally illuminated signs.
It is also part of fire safety law to provide a safe means of refuge for disabled persons in the event of a fire or emergency. Any non-domestic building with more than one storey should provide a means of refuge for any person who cannot easily use fire escapes, lifts and stairs during an emergency.
Additional emergency lighting should be provided in toilet facilities and other similar areas exceeding 8m2 floor area or with no borrowed light, and all toilets for the disabled.
Using products with the correct Lux level is imperative and BS5266-1:2005 recommends a minimum of 1 Lux at floor level on escape routes. Emergency lighting should also be positioned in such a way to ensure that they are free from disability glare, where the brightness of a luminaire dazzles people, preventing obstructions or signs from being properly seen.
One significant technological development is the use of light emitting diode (LED) technology which is cost-effective and environmentally friendly – in fact, it produces less than four per cent of the carbon emissions of traditional lighting. One state-of-the-art emergency lighting system utilises LEDs and is based around an addressable, emergency lighting control panel with battery back up and features addressable, self-contained luminaires and signage.
This system operates via functional extra low voltage (FELV). This means that the responsible person no longer has to rely on an electrical contractor to maintain the system. As the system is FELV based and operates on 40V, the responsible person can change a battery or luminaire if required.
Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting (ICEL) approved products are independently tested and meet the current product and application standards. Therefore, selecting products with ICEL approval will provide reassurance of compliance.
All emergency lighting systems and signs should be regularly inspected and tested in order to meet the requirements of European law. Results obtained and details of any corrective action should be entered into a logbook which is held on site.
A full record sheet needs to be maintained for each emergency luminaire and these sheets have to be available for inspection by the authorities at any time. Failure to provide full test records can result in legal action and closure of the building, and if the emergency lighting is defective, the insurance policy for the building may be invalid.
While the standards define an adequate minimum provision for the safe evacuation of a building, additional emergency lighting should be installed if necessary. A comprehensive risk assessment is the key to making sure that the DDA is complied with and the safety of disabled persons is properly considered.