It is perhaps a matter of ‘common sense’ that effective lighting at work is required and enables safe working. However, common sense very often isn’t common, and this article sets out the legal requirements, good practice, associated hazards and some tips on lighting strategies.
Dr Richard Brown, Head of Expert Services at Finch Consulting, muses over his experience with lighting over his well-established career.
The legal requirements are detailed at the end of this article and referred to throughout the body of it. The article does not discuss lighting requirements in explosive or potentially explosive atmospheres.
Why is effective lighting required?
Aside from the legal requirements, the following can be used to summarise why we light workplaces, and what can occur when this is not achieved.
It will enable everyone to quickly see/identify hazards and avoid them. Therefore, the types of hazards present at work determine the lighting requirements to enable safe operation. Effective lighting will reduce eye strain for those working. When considering correct lighting levels, it is important in a workplace to evaluate the following:
- General lighting (communal areas, i.e. corridors)
- Task specific lighting
- Emergency lighting (i.e. in the event of a fire, and power failure, sufficient emergency lighting for people to safely evacuate)
When lighting is not adequate this can this to accidents in the workplace resulting in costs to the business through:
- Time off work from injuries
- Increased absenteeism and
- Reduced staff productivity
Put simply, effective lighting strategy will assist employers in providing a safe workplace for their employees and others who might be harmed, such as visitors, the public and contractors.
“the types of hazards present at work determine the lighting requirements to enable safe operation”
How to effectively manage the health and safety risks from lighting in the workplace (taken from HSG38).
The following can be applied to a design strategy (e.g. for new build or building modifications, maintenance shutdowns, or any building reviews). The consideration is therefore of lighting as part of a risk-based approach within the design of buildings and construction or maintenance work. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 should be utilised, and the roles of Principal Designer and Designer(s) should consider lighting. Equally lighting should be considered as part of accident or incident investigations, where improper lighting may have played a role in the injury or incident.
- Effective planning – reviewing your current arrangements for lighting in the workplace to ensure they are adequate, and where not, set targets for improvement. Good practice would include reviewing your arrangements when making changes to the workplace (i.e. installation of new equipment, changing the use of a room, etc.) to ensure that the lighting levels and positioning of the lights are not compromised.
- Organisation – ensuring that your organisation has sufficient ‘competent’ persons and appropriate equipment to ensure the review and maintenance of your lighting provisions. For example, are your lighting systems on a regular maintenance schedule and do you have enough competent people to undertake this regime? Furthermore, under the HASWA 74 employees are responsible for their own and others’ health and safety. Employees have a role to report lighting defects to the employer so these can be resolved as soon as possible.
- Controlling H&S – An organisation must be able to control their health and safety risks by creating a set of standards (i.e. procedures, regimes, etc.) to set the required frequencies and types of checks that must be completed within the organisation.
- Monitoring – Monitoring and reviewing of lighting is important as this will demonstrate to the organisation whether the lighting checks have been completed and to the required satisfactory standard. The monitoring should also involve reviewing the effectiveness of lighting within the organisation to include the planning, organisation, control, and monitoring regimes in place, and where necessary making improvements. Records of such monitoring and the outcomes should be recorded.
- Risk Assessment – Workplaces must assess possible risks in the workplace (MHSWR 1999) which includes lighting risks to ensure that lighting levels do not pose a risk to staff or others using the working environment. As with all risk assessments, where a significant risk has been identified then the Hierarchy of Controls must be following to remove, reduce or control the risk so far as reasonably practicable.
Minimum lighting levels
What is lux?
Lux is the unit of measurement for illuminance. The difference between lumens and lux can often cause confusion. It can be most easily explained by thinking of luminance as the amount of light emitted from a light source, whereas illuminance is the amount of light at a particular point away from the light source. 1 lux means 1 lumen per square metre.
Lighting at Work Guidance HSG381 provides guidance on minimum lighting levels on everyday use inside and outside of buildings, and cover the illuminance on the task and illuminance ratios.
Illuminance on the task
The amount of lighting required depends on the amount of detail that a person needs to see and can also depend on the age of the worker and the speed and accuracy by which the task needs to be undertaken.
Examples of different requirements
Further details on specific lux levels in different work environments are detailed in the CIBSE “Code of Lighting” (This is provided at a cost of £150 by the CIBSE). A summary of these specific lighting levels for different work environments has been summarised by Kellwood Lighting2. These could be used to highlight the lighting requirements in different work environments.
This is explained in HSG 38 on page 30 which states ‘The relationship between the lighting of the work area and adjacent areas is important. Large differences in illuminance between them may cause visual discomfort or even affect safety in places where there is frequent movement. This problem arises most often where local or localised lighting indoors exposes an employee to a range of illuminances for a long time, or where the movement between interior and exterior working areas exposes an employee to a sudden change of illuminance. To guard against danger and discomfort, the recommendations in the table above need to be followed’.
Temporary lighting strategies
This article has previously discussed fixed lighting matters. I now turn to temporary lighting and I have provided a few anecdotes from industry to provide some context to lighting issues and some solutions that I have found to be useful.
Have enough sockets for temporary lighting
I have endured the unfortunate experience of being within a large coal boiler furnace on an outage (a maintenance shut down in the power industry) when without warning all the temporary furnace lighting failed. The furnace was decked out with scaffolding, and most workers held on to a handrail and waited for the lighting to be remedied. As is usual in these circumstances, the language was rather choice and voluminous! After the many shouts the lighting returned to its previous state after what was probably a minute or so (but perhaps in absolute darkness seemed more like hours).
After an investigation it was discovered that a welder needed to grind out a weld and couldn’t find a free power socket. Rather than spend time arranging for this to occur, he simply unplugged the nearest plug to him in a splitter box and carried on with his work. As part of the investigation, it was discovered that there were generally insufficient power sockets for the trades at each boiler level. Due to slow reactions to complaints, workers grew tired of constantly asking for further sockets and resorted to their own means of finding a power source.
In this circumstance, I was lucky to have a personal light on my hard hat, as did many of the contractors. Better provision of power sockets and mandatory personal lighting to enter the boiler were a result of the investigation.
Providing lighting can lead to other accident types
Temporary lighting is often strung at low level, across the floor, over motors, pumps etc. Consequently, poorly designed temporary lighting often leads to slip and trip type of accidents and incidents. Additionally, lighting can be placed on improper surfaces (e.g. hot surfaces) which can affect the lighting cabling. How often in industry do we see extension cables, lighting, or sockets surrounded or in pools of water? In my experience quite often.
I have always found the best approach to temporary lighting to be to plan it in like any other task. On large power station outages for example, consultation with the scaffolders has allowed the temporary lighting to be attached to set points above head level, to prevent trip hazards and the damage of cabling at low level. Furthermore, the minimisation of electrically related accidents can be achieved.
This approach in conjunction with the scaffolders also allows the proper derigging of scaffolding and lighting, without overly affecting the lighting provision. Often without planning, high mounted lighting, once the scaffolding is dropped, ends up on the floor because the scaffolders haven’t been consulted.
Ensure the correct type and positioning of lighting
Some lighting systems will have a stroboscopic effect that may make rotating objects appear stationary (this happens with video cameras recording helicopters flying and the footage looks as though the rotors are stationary). Different lighting systems may need to be combined that operate at different frequencies to prevent this effect.
Ensure that lighting levels are assessed at the point of work. High level lighting may provide ample light, however, when work equipment is installed or used then lighting levels may be reduced at the point of work (think of working underneath vehicles).
The law and relevant guidance
Health and Safety At Work Act 1974
Section 2 – General duties of employers to their employees:
- Assessing the risks in the workplace, tell employees of these risks and how they will be protected.
- Ensure safety of employees in connection with the use, storage, and transport of articles
- Ensure safe maintenance of the place of work
- Consult employees on H&S issues
Section 3 – General duties of employers and self-employed to persons other than their employees
- The employer must ensure that others not in their employment who may be affected by their activities (visitors, contractors, etc.) are not exposed to risks whilst at the employer’s site. (i.e, by ensuring adequate lighting levels are in place to prevent accidents and incidents)
Section 7 – General duties of employees at work:
- Employees must take reasonable care of the health and safety of themselves and others, and must cooperate with any requirement imposed by the employer so the employer can comply with any required duty, (i.e. reporting of defects for example defective lights to ensure lighting levels remain effective).
The Regulatory (Fire Safety) Order 200523
Part 2, Article 9 – Risk Assessment:
- The ‘Responsible Person’ (RP) must ensure a suitable and sufficient assessment of fire risks has been reviewed if it is suspected that it is no longer valid or there has been a significant change. The risk assessment must include emergency lighting provision to ensure persons can safely evacuate.
- These assessments must be recorded where an employer employs five or more employees.
Part 2, Article 14 – Emergency routes and exits:
- The RP must ensure emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting of adequate intensity in the case of failure of their normal lighting.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 19994
Regulation 3 – Risk assessment:
- “3. – (1) Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of–
- (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and
- (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking,”
The risk assessment must include assessing whether lighting levels are adequate for the work environment/tasks and activities being undertaken.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 19925
Regulation 8 – Lighting:
‘(1) Every workplace shall have suitable and sufficient lighting.
(2) The lighting mentioned in paragraph (1) shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, be by natural light.
(3) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), suitable and sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided in any room in circumstances in which persons at work are specially exposed to danger in the event of failure of artificial lighting.’
The Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 (as amended in 2002)6
Regulation 3 (Schedule) – Requirements for workstations:
Requires in the Schedule for there to be adequate lighting and adequate contrast (i.e. no glare or distracting reflections). In particular, the Schedule states:
- ‘Any room lighting or task lighting provided shall ensure satisfactory lighting conditions and an appropriate contrast between the screen and the background environment, taking into account the type of work and the vision requirements of the operator or user.
- ‘Possible disturbing glare and reflections on the screen or other equipment shall be prevented by co-ordinating workplace and workstation layout with the positioning and technical characteristics of the artificial light sources.’
- Additional information can be found on lighting in BS EN ISO 9241 Part 6.
Lighting at Work Guidance (HSG38)7
This guidance from the HSE explains how lighting contributes to the health and safety of people at work. It deals with assessing and managing the health and safety risks attributable to lighting in the workplace, good practice and the minimum recommended illumination levels that meet health and safety requirements.
Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
Paragraph 82 CDM ACOP states, “Designs prepared for places of work also need to comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (the Workplace Regulations) taking account of factors such as lighting and the layout of traffic routes”. This requirement is to ensure that lighting post construction phase is adequate for the building.
Regulation 31(4) states, “An emergency route or exit and any traffic route giving access to it must be kept clear and free from obstruction and, where necessary, provided with emergency lighting so that it may be used at any time”.
Regulation 35 headed ‘Lighting’ states:
“(1) Each construction site and approach and traffic route to that site must be provided with suitable and sufficient lighting, which must be, so far as is reasonably practicable, by natural light.
(2) The colour of any artificial lighting provided must not adversely affect or change the perception of any sign or signal provided for the purposes of health or safety.(3) Suitable and sufficient secondary lighting must be provided in any place where there would be a risk to the health or safety of a person in the event of the failure of primary artificial lighting”.