Lighting Levels in the Workplace | (UK) Health and Safety

Lighting Levels
Adhering to lighting regulations in the workplace can be a tricky business. Unfortunately there are not always clear and concise guidelines demonstrating exactly what lighting levels you should be maintaining. On top of this it can be tricky to know where to look for relevant answers. This guide is here to help you solve this issue quickly and efficiently.

Who is responsible for lighting levels at work and what are their legal responsibilities?

Let’s begin with that dreaded phrase, Your Legal Responsibility. Under the Health & Safety at Work Act of 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure the health & safety of employees. The Act includes a duty to provide lighting to ensure that work can be undertaken safely. It also states that employee’s health or eyesight must not be jeopardised. Regulation no.8 of the Workplace Regulations Act 1992 states that employers must ensure that:
  • Every workplace has suitable & sufficient lighting.
  • This should be natural light, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • Suitable & sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided where needed

Guidance on the Legislation governing the amount of light needed in the workplace within the UK is mostly restricted to that provided and published by the Health and Safety Executive in HSG 38: Lighting at Work. Don’t worry about the dates, it may look dated but it is what you should be looking at. HSG:38 states that ‘Employers, the self-employed and people in control of non-domestic premises have a duty to ensure that lighting is safe and does not pose a health risk to employees and others who use their premises.‘ But we already knew that much right?

Going further

General guidance for lighting is supplied over the next 30 pages of this document; it is worth noting at this point that this document deals with the minimum requirements, not the best or recommended requirements. In summary this is what it says The important factors of lighting in the workplace are as follows
  • Hazards should be easily noticeable so they can be assessed
  • All light it suitable for the work of work undertaken and the environment it is undertaken in
  • The task or job being undertaken should have sufficient light (or illuminance)
  • Different colours should be distinguishable to promote safety
  • No stroboscopic effects, flickers or glare should be caused by the lighting
  • avoids the effects of veiling reflections
  • Adjacent areas should not have substantially different levels of lighting
  • Individuals needs must be considered and met
  • No light should pose a health and safety risk
  • It should be accessible so maintenance can be carried out or the unit can be replaced with ease
  • Safe emergency lighting

Eventually you get shown this handy little table giving us some actual figures. Unfortunately again, the HSE are a little vague with precise requirements. They break lighting requirements down into only 5 categories.

Activity Typical Types of Working Locations Average Illuminance (lux) 1x Minimum Measured illuminance (lux) 1x
 Movement of people, machines and vehicles  Lorry park, corridors, circulation routes  20  5
 Movement of people, machines and vehicles in hazardous areas: rough work not requiring any perception of detail  Construction sites clearance, excavation and soil work, loading bays, bottling and canning plant  50  20
 Work requiring limited perception of detail  Kitchens, factories, assembling large components, potteries  100  50
 Work requiring perception of details  Offices, sheet metal work, bookbinding  200  100
 Work requiring perception of fine details  Drawing offices, factories assembling electronic components, textile production  500  200

The limitation of this table leads us to recommend seeking further more precise guidance when implementing your own lighting policies.

Advanced Guidance

The Society of Light & Lighting (SLL), who are part of the CIBSE, produces and publishes a selection of lighting guides which are more in-line with European Standards. These guides focus more on recommended illuminance levels for various tasks. The main source of information is the SLL Code for Lighting This is the Holy Grail for anybody with a serious interest in lighting regulations. It focuses on the technical aspects of lighting and most importantly features lux levels for different tasks and environments. It is worth noting the guide itself highlights that the numbers provided are not written in stone and should only be used as a guide with logic applied.

Why should I be measuring light levels?

Despite your legal responsibility to measure light there are some other very good reasons to be considering your lighting levels. Bad lighting can be detrimental to your business. Low lux levels (insufficient light) are a common cause of fatigue and muscle strain. This becomes more likely if the exposure is consistent over longer periods of time. The same is true for high lux levels (excessive light). Glare and reflected light can distract an individual and impair his or her vision. This is particularly dangerous when a job requires the worker’s full attention. Those working with machinery or hazardous chemicals are at a much greater risk. Using a light or lux meter to measure light levels in your workplace can help you to avoid these issues. Protecting your colleagues and employees in the workplace should be of paramount importance.

You should ensure that you provide appropriate lighting at all times. You can achieve this through testing and regular maintenance. The most common ways to test are using a Lux Meter, we recommend you take a look at our guide on how to measure light, which includes a guide on how to use your lux meter correctly.

Please note, this article is meant as a guide only and does not replace proper research into your own health and safety requirements.

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