The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was started in 1970 by President Nixon. This organization oversees many industry standards of safety and precaution for sectors that include agriculture, maritime, construction and general industry. Lighting regulations for general industry are covered here.
The guidelines set forth by OSHA for lighting must be followed in the workplace. The areas of lighting covered in general industry by OSHA include working areas, exits, emergency lighting, construction lighting and the safety of that lighting. This also pertains to the wiring, the outlets, controls and the clearance minimums for lighting. When the act was started, it was section 1926 that established the minimum requirements be in measurements known as foot candles.
A foot-candle is roughly the amount of light that is emitted from a candle at a foot’s distance. Depending on the work environment, the foot candles or FTC will differ. In terms of industry, the general industry actually does not have set ftcs for lighting. That is, office workplaces are not regulated strictly in the amount of lighting delivered through the work area.
In construction, there has to be at least 5 ftc in each area. This includes halls, corridors, and exits. It also includes storage spaces and waster or evacuation areas. In offices, many business owners are surprised to find that OSHA does not require there be any specific amount although some people argue it should be 30 to 50 ftc depending on how large the area is.
Lighting for general office use is up to the workers or the business owners. The amount of light used in a workplace can be bright or moderate. It is up to the office manager, and many managers believe that bright lights make workers happier and therefore more productive.
There are other opinions that argue that low lighting is actually more productive because it is less harsh and glaring. For any worker that sits in front of a computer, the light from the computer is often taken into consideration as to how much other light is needed in order to work productively.
One area of lighting in workplaces such as offices that does get governed by OSHA is lighting outlets. Switch placement is also covered. The standard requires that outlets be placed so that any bulb changes are made in a safe manner. There should be no need for moving parts or machinery to do this. Light switches also have to be away from any moving parts or anything that could cause a hazard.
Another standard from OSHA is one that dictates all electrical wiring installation. There are minimum standards that must be met here.
These include grounding, wire size, and the location of the wiring being installed. This is an important distinction to make. While there are no lighting standards for the amount of light you need in an office space, there are standards for the way in which that light is installed and grounded.
It is good to note that there are also requirements when and if temporary lighting is needed. This applies when buildings, including offices, are being repaired, remodeled or maintained. It can also apply to special lighting for holidays and other events. This type of lighting cannot exceed 600 volts.
Any time outdoor lights have to be used, such as during holidays, all lighting has to be placed below live transformers or conductors. If you have any concerns, ask your local electrician for more help.
While OSHA does not have regulations for the lights in a workspace in terms of the amount of light, it does have recommendations. These recommendations suggest that the workplace is arranged to reduce excess brightness or glare. Light diffusers are suggested around computer screens and desks should be set so that they get the right amount of lighting instead of direct lighting.
Finally, always follow OSHA requirements for emergency exits. They must be illuminated with Exit signs lit to 5 ftc at all times. OSHA regulations may update and change from time to time. It is important to consult with the organization online to see if you need to make any changes when you are moving to a new office or building a new office.