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What Are OSHA Lighting Standards and Why Do They Matter?

Why Do OSHA Lighting Standards Matter?

Regardless of the type or function of your facility, lighting will always be a critical factor in overall productivity, employee health, morale, and safety. When your building does not have enough light, it can create unsafe and unhealthy working conditions, while appropriate amounts of light improve productivity, morale and safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) established guidelines (Standard 1926.56) in lighting, specifically to address safety and the minimum amount of lighting required for working areas.

The lighting requirements are documented as minimum foot-candles based on space type and usage.

OSHA also documents requirements for protective light covers, to protect fixtures and prevent shattering. Light covers should not have exposed parts, should be firmly mounted, and all openings should be smaller than a finger can reach through.

What Are OSHA Lighting Standards?

  • Minimum of 3 foot-candles: Concrete placement, evacuation and waste areas, loading platforms, active storage areas, refuelling, and field maintenance areas.
  • Minimum of 5 foot-candles: The standard lighting for general construction areas, warehouses, corridors, hallways, and exit ways.
  • Minimum of 10 foot-candles: General construction plants and shops including indoor bathrooms and mess rooms.
  • Minimum of 30 foot-candles: First aid stations, infirmaries and offices.

In its lighting standards, OSHA directs that light should be evenly distributed across each workspace. The amount of light should allow workers to see clearly and areas of differences in illumination should be minimized to prevent eye strain. Inadequate light can cause stress, fatigue, headaches, eyestrain, and possibly accidents. Too much light may cause glare-induced headaches and contribute to employee stress.

What Are the Most Common Lighting Issues?


The light changes rapidly, which can be distracting and cause headaches. 


Bright light affects your ability to see objects you want to concentrate on. Sources of glare include sunlight, reflective surfaces, poorly located light fixtures, or bulbs that are too bright.

Improper Contrast

The light around the workstation is brighter than the light on the workstation. This can make it difficult to work. Ideal work environments require light on the workstation to be brighter than the surrounding light.

Inadequate Light

There is not enough light to complete tasks safely. If your workers are frequently using headlamps or flashlights in specific areas of your facility, you do not have adequate light for safety.

Poor Light Distribution

There are significant variations in lighting between areas. This makes it difficult for workers’ eyes to readjust when moving from one area to another. 

What are the Different Types of Workplace Lighting?

Task Lighting 

Provides focused illumination to support reading, note taking or visibility of small details. Task lighting is particularly important for safety at individual workstations.

General Lighting 

Is the lighting that is constant throughout a workplace. The fixtures should be spaced evenly and have the same type and brightness of bulbs.

Emergency Lighting 

Illuminates escape routes and emergency exits and is typically connected to a reserve power supply that is able to function in the case of a facility power outage.

What are the Potential Costs of Non-Compliance?

The current maximum OSHA violation fines are:

  • Serious Violation: $13,494
  • Failure to Abate Prior Violation: $13,494 per day beyond the abatement date
  • Willful or Repeated Violation: $134,937 and potential criminal proceedings.

However, OSHA fines are only a small portion of the potential costs of unsafe lighting. Without proper lighting, you jeopardize productivity and risk the safety, health and happiness of your employees. This could make you the subject of legal action, workers’ comp claims and other punitive measures. 

What are the Benefits of Complying With OSHA Lighting Standards?

Obviously, the most important reason for compliance is that these lighting standards have been created to reduce accidents and injuries to the workers. When your facility is correctly illuminated, the chances of your employees misjudging a distance or not seeing an obstruction and injuring themselves are significantly decreased. Eliminating eye strain can also reduce sick days. 

A focus on employee comfort improves morale and helps maintain higher levels of productivity. When employees are happy and productive, there is typically lower employee turnover, which reduces both cost and training time. 

How Do I Know My Facility Meets OSHA Lighting Standards?

In order to determine whether your facility meets OSHA lighting standards, a light meter can be used to measure foot-candles throughout the facility. These measurements will show whether there are differences in light levels, areas of too much or too little illumination. Once you complete your evaluation, you will be able to make a plan for improvements to address any issues.

Let Us Help You Boost Safety & Productivity with a Free Lighting Audit

We can take lighting measurements for you and assess where you can improve on safety, efficiency, and maintenance costs. We’ll review your current lighting configuration and needs and give you a cost-effective course of action to safe, efficient, quality light.