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OSHA Rules for Lighting a Safe Workplace

Simply stated, if you can’t see where you are going or what you are working on, it makes the job much harder to do. 

The OSHA standards for minimum illumination (1910.37 and 1926.56), as well as NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, require a certain amount of illumination for emergency lighting and general lighting. 

Any job takes longer to do with poor lighting. It is harder to see:

  • Leaking fluids.
  • Uneven work surfaces.
  • Equipment wear and condition.
  • Holes in pavement.
  • Tripping hazards.
  •  Nut and bolt alignment.
  • Unsecured or defective guards.
  • Equipment identifiers.
  • Chemical labels and warnings.
  • Missing bolts on electrical boxes or panels.

Poor lighting can be dangerous for those working on a marine dock, in a poorly lit railyard, or on a loading dock. Having a flashing light on your lifevest or your jacket makes you more visible in these locations.  

Measuring Light

Lighting typically is measured in foot-candles (ftc). Using a light meter, survey your workplace at night to see what areas could benefit from improved or increased lighting.

The solution may be as simple as cleaning windows or cleaning lighting fixtures or replacing burnt out light bulbs. Make sure that employees have flashlights (approved for hazardous locations, if needed).

Lighting is not just a night issue. Look for dark areas that could mask a hazard in the facility such as stairwells, manlift and elevator shafts, motor control rooms, rarely used work floors, and areas where equipment or processes have changed or ceased. 

Look at reclaim tunnels and boot pits, as well as remote locations. Don’t forget dusty locations such as rail or river loadout.

Do you have enough light at the top of catwalks to repair drives or conveyors effectively? If not, can portable lighting be used?

Maintenance shops may need additional light for task work. Shields for grinding wheels and lathes will get almost opaque if not properly cleaned and maintained. Make a list of needed lighting improvements.

Emergency Exits

Emergency exit lighting should be tested to make sure that there is enough light and that the batteries and emergency lights work to specifications. Emergency exit lighting must be provided automatically in the event of a power failure. 

Exit routes including stairs, aisles, corridors, and ramps must have emergency lighting. This lighting must be 1 ftc of light in any point of the building and 0.1 ftc along the emergency exit path at floor level. The emergency lighting must last for 1-1/2 hours after a power failure. After this 1-1/2 hours, this lighting is allowed to fade to 0.6 ftc.


Source: Lynn Larsen, president of Safety Solutions Inc., a safety consulting firm in Knoxville, TN 701-261-9587.


This Safety Tip of the Week is sponsored by: CCS Group.



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Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

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