Without the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) policing business nationwide, there would be anarchy. Employers may try to skate by with the bare minimum to cut costs, but OSHA ensures no one is cutting corners. OSHA has standards for every business operation, including its lighting. This complete guide to OSHA lighting standards will inform you of what OSHA is looking for and what you can do to better your working environment with top-tier lighting.
Many businesses have requirements and regulations they must follow to meet industry standards. While many of those measurements are simply feet and inches, OSHA’s lighting standards are slightly different.
Foot-candles are the primary unit OSHA follows. In contrast to lumen output, which measures how much light exits a light source, foot-candle measurements evaluate how much light reaches a certain area.
A foot-candle, for instance, refers to the quantity of light that falls on the ground underneath from an overhead light on a workbench rather than the light produced by the light itself. At this juncture, it’s important to note that the term “foot-candles” is a unit of measurement in countries that adhere to US customary units of measurement.
The SI-derived “lux” is the standard unit of measurement in many other regions, including Europe. The difference between lux and foot-candles that the former refers to the illumination of a one-meter square and the latter to a one-foot square.
Meeting OSHA’s Standards
OSHA requires that you provide sufficient, uniform illumination across all work areas. Workers’ eyes shouldn’t have to strain to see, so make sure there is adequate light and no dark spots. To abide by OSHA’s standards, the covers, location, and lighting system installation must be approved.
Plates are necessary to meet regulations for light cover protection. If the light is less than seven feet above the work surface, you should install guards as barriers to prevent the covers from shattering. They need to be securely fastened, have no protruding pieces, and have no apertures bigger than a human finger.
The OSHA regulation 1926.403 (j)(3)(ii) addresses the safety of workers who are responsible for maintaining lighting equipment, specifically regarding the placement of electrical outlets and switches. Repair workers or electricians working on the light fixture should not be in danger from moving or live components. This determines the secure locations of each outlet. Similar placement guidelines exist for switches, which protect the worker responsible for turning on the light from harm.
Lighting installations must adhere to the standards outlined in OSHA standard 1910 Subpart S. Methods, places, and wire gauges are all standard. Temporary lighting has its own set of regulations, including those for construction and maintenance lights and festive decorations. This encompasses the Christmas season as well as other festive holidays.
Types of Workplace Lighting
Every workplace, from a small office to a massive warehouse, has three kinds of lighting systems: general, emergency, and task lighting.
General lighting references the kind of illumination in the work area. There must be uniformity in the spacing and brightness of the bulbs used in the various light fixtures. The illumination is consistent throughout the facility, so employees’ eyes won’t have to adapt constantly. The foot-candles of each working environment differ, considering offices need 30fc whereas underground work areas necessitate 5fc.
Unfortunately, every lighting system isn’t impenetrable, leading to potential outages that could negatively affect working operations. However, emergency lighting systems that provide illumination when the main lights go out play a major factor, especially in the eyes of OSHA.
When the electricity goes off, emergency lighting often switches on from a backup system. Whatever the cause of the power failure, the emergency lighting will keep the exits and escape routes clear so that employees may leave the facility securely.
Imagine an artist painting a portrait in the dark. While they may have a general idea of what they are doing, the final project may consist of random blotches and poor performance overall. Yet, shining a light directly onto the piece to see its imperfections gives the artist a chance to nail their piece.
Task lighting is necessary for any activity requiring close attention to detail or benefiting from targeted illumination. It might be anything as simple as a desk lamp or as complex as a spotlight. Offices must comply with OSHA’s standard lighting guidelines, considering that most employees will be using computers. However, you may require specific task illumination for activities like reading and note-taking.
Common Lighting Problems
Noticing the warning signs of bad lighting can help get you ahead of the curve and fix a bad situation before it worsens. These five instances are telltale signs that the lighting system in your workplace is severely lacking.
- Insufficient illumination: Simply put, the lighting at a workstation is poor.
- Conflicting contrasts: This occurs when the light around the workspace is brighter than the light on the workstation itself.
- Glare: Occurs when a source of intense light interferes with your ability to focus on an item. It might result from a skewed light source, an overly bright bulb, direct sunshine, or reflected light from a screen.
- Inconsistent light distribution: Lack of uniform lighting may make it difficult for employees to see when they go from one location to another, and their eyes have to adapt to the change in lighting.
- Flickering: Flickering lighting may make a horror movie more intense, but it’s bad news if it’s a reality in the workplace.
Why Following OSHA’s Guidelines Makes for Better Business
Some folks might look at the cost and effort involved in installing new lighting and balk at the thought of it. But everyone should realize that following OSHA regulations is one way to lessen the likelihood of workplace accidents.
Proper lighting in the workplace reduces the likelihood of an employee sustaining an injury due to poor depth perception or the failure to notice an object in their path. They may continue working without worrying about damaging their eyesight. As a result, workers, potential employees, and insurers benefit from increased confidence in properly lit workplaces.
Comfort for workers is another major perk. If employees’ headaches disappear from the lack of squinting, they will have more positive attitudes toward their workplace. Workers who are satisfied with their work give their all while on-site morale and productivity increase.
What’s at Risk?
Aside from the health risks of horrible lighting, there are also financial ramifications a business could face. Current maximum punishments for OSHA infractions are $13,494 for a substantial offense, $13,492 if a previous issue remains since the last inspection, and $134,937 for repeated violations. If the business is a habitual offender, it could lead to criminal charges and that hefty $100,000+ fine.
This complete guide to OSHA lighting standards proves it’s in everyone’s best interest to follow their lighting regulations strictly for numerous reasons. It improves workplace safety and, by extension, may lead to a more pleasant and productive working environment. Your business can only benefit from less absenteeism and higher morale. Finally, the potential severity of the penalties for failing to comply should serve as another incentive to do so.
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