Do I need emergency lighting in toilets?

UNDER THE UK building regulations, if you have a single toilet, designed for use by an able-bodied person, then no, emergency lighting is not necessary. Similarly, you don’t need emergency for en-suite toilets or bathrooms, even in hotel bedrooms.

The public toilets at the Bullring in Birmingham, designed by dpa lighting consultants, won a Lighting Design Award in 2005.

However, under BS 5266 -1:2005, you will have to supply emergency lighting from at least one luminaire if the facilities include multiple closets without any borrowed light, or are over 8 sq m in gross area or are toilets dedicated to disabled use.

If in doubt check section 7.8.5.

Note that ‘borrowed light’ in this case means light coming from an adjacent emergency light, not daylight.

Additionally it is difficult to justify street lighting as an acceptable borrowed light, as these are increasingly being switched off for energy saving during the night.

In an existing installation that relied on another source then it should be re-assessed as part of the regular revisions of the fire risk assessment. If in doubt, it’s recommended that additional emergency luminaires are installed.

Remember that BS 5266 is a guidance document and according to the foreword by BSI in the document itself 'should not be quoted as a standard'. 

We'd recommend the Industry Committee for Emergency Lighting course – delivered by the Lighting Industry Association Academy – as it offers lots of further clarification on the status of the various documents used to specify emergency lighting.


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  • Emergency lighting and the responsibilities of building owners will be the focus of the conference programme at the Escape Zone at the LuxLive 2018 exhibition taking place at ExCeL London on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. Entry is completely free if you pre-register HERE

Comments 2

There is no more startling darker abyss than a windowless toilet when the power fails. Diana is right. Forget emergency lighting. Let's provide an LED footcandle 24/7 using a wiring device in an existing j-box. I've been carrying fractional watt LED nightlight/emergency flashlight plug ins for use in hotels for going on 15 years. Plus a cube tap and short AC cord for those outlet-deprived guestrooms. Considering how much helpful light is available from something akin to 1/4 watt LED source it boggles the mind that hotel designers and operators have not incorporated such an amenity into wall outlets/switches as a universal design practice. In questioning hundreds of hoteliers and staying guests I have discovered that many guests leave the bathroom lights on all night with the door open a sliver. A very costly nightlight for the operator and the planet. Even if the bathrooms are burning LEDs.

Do the people who make these decisions use public toilets . ? Individual loos are usually without any window . Imagine trying to get out if you cant even see the lock ...very dangerous for elderly and young children and particularly if you are in such a vulnerable place . What if there is a fire ? I have personal experience of this and it is very scary particularly if you are on your own . Well I suppose lots of people have got to die before they do anything about it

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