By Ross Donald

Poor lighting is one of the most commonly identified causes of workplace injuries. It is not surprising when you consider that proper lighting is a key factor of being able to identify and avoid hazards, safely handle dangerous equipment, and deter criminal activity. Though additional lighting means additional costs, the costs of personal injury are often far greater. It is vital to give ample consideration to the lighting conditions of businesses and homes not only with cost in mind, but also the well-being of occupants and visitors.

Light Measurement

In meeting safety standards, light is usually measured in foot-candles. This refers to the amount of light cast on one square foot of a surface from a candle one foot away. There are many meters one can buy for professional use in measuring light, but personal intuition cannot be overvalued in determining unsafe lighting conditions.


Outdoor lighting needs just as much consideration as indoor lighting. Slip and fall accidents often occur outside when poor lighting makes it difficult to spot ice, oil, or dips and rises on walkways and parking lots. Also, a high level of visibility around the exterior of a building enhances its security by deterring criminals who would be easily seen conducting suspicious activity. In terms of safety and security, brighter lighting covering the largest area possible is usually advisable. This will also ensure that security cameras capture what they need to when incidents do occur.

Though business and home owners often give a good deal of consideration to aesthetic in their outdoor lighting, it is important to balance safety into that equation. Parking lot lighting is not federally regulated, but you will often find local legislation that requires something like, “a minimum of .25 foot-candles on the parking surface.” Such a minimum requirement is not necessarily suitable for all cases, however.


Stairways indoors and outdoors need to be well lit as they are a hot spot for falls and tend to result in more severe injuries. Though there are a variety of options for lighting stairs, it is a good idea to place the lights so that there is as little shadow on the stairs as possible. Legislation often requires something around one foot-candle at the center of each stair and landing, so it is important to evaluate the light on this area of stairways.

Dangerous Equipment

Perhaps the most important consideration for proper lighting, dangerous equipment has to be evaluated on a case by case basis depending on how it is used. This includes everything from handling knives in a kitchen to operating a fork lift in a warehouse. Equipment involving careful manual operation needs a good light source that allows the operator to clearly see what they are doing. Also, if the operator is casting their own shadow over the equipment, the light source may need better placement. For equipment where there is a danger of injury by falling into its area of operation, ample light should be provided for a zone around the equipment as well.

Emergency Lighting

Emergency situations such as power outages and fires require not only good back up light sources, but also well-lit egress routes in case evacuation is necessary. Though this is an obvious and regulated consideration for businesses, it is important not to allow maintenance of such provisions to fall by the wayside. After all, just because they are not used every day doesn’t mean you should ignore them and expect them to perform whenever you may need them.

The Mood Factor

Though we wouldn’t generally consider a dreary state of mind to be an injury, it is a light-related factor that affects us all on some level at work and at home. Studies have shown that low light conditions contribute to a dark mood. At the same time, too much light also causes a decline here, so the trick is to find the right level of light that both enhances mood and provides safety where necessary.

As lighting technology evolves, more and more efficient, low-cost options are becoming available. While cost and aesthetics are valid considerations, safety is always paramount and should not be sacrificed in favor of other factors. Even with proper lighting installed, regular maintenance and replacement of the lights themselves and removal of obstructions is advisable for businesses and homeowners alike. When health and well-being are at stake, no cost in money or effort should be too great. Whether at home or at work, we should always be on the lookout for unsafe lighting conditions so they can be addressed before harm is done.

Ross Donald is a safety-conscious stay at home dad and blogger who loves to undertake a variety of DIY projects. He writes for leading supplier of light fixtures,